Australia’s first Aged Care Complaints Commissioner, Rae Lamb has recently been reappointed for her second term. Her term will run for three years until January 2020. Ms Lamb has made quite an impact since taking over the brand new office in January this year.

Ms Lamb’s job involves addressing complaints lodged against aged care and home services that receive funding from the Government. If the situation warrants, she oversees investigations into the complaints and proposes long-term solutions aimed at preventing future issues.

The official position states the Commissioner’s job is:

  • Resolving complaints about Australian Government subsidised aged care services, and
  • Educating people and aged care providers about the best ways to handle complaints and the issues they raise

The Aged Care Complaints Commissioner handles complaints from people about Government funded aged care and home care services but acts independently from any government body. The complaint resolution services are all provided free of charge to anyone who has a concern. This new process was announced in May 2015, in order to address increased concerns about the care and well-being of the aged.

Ms Lamb’s reappointment assures a continuity of quality in the division and commitment to improving care to Australia’s ageing population.

She oversees a staff of over 160 and seven offices, which are located in major cities throughout Australia.

Spike in Complaints

Ms Lamb highlighted an 11% aged care complaint increase, comparing the time period January – June 2016 to January- June 2015. The complaints involved home care, residential care, and community care events and totalled 2,153 in number.
The increase is partly attributed to the appointment of an independent Commissioner and the public’s education about the existence of such a division. The general feeling is that the public is more receptive to the office with the new independence from the Government. It creates a sense of openness and transparency that maybe was not felt prior to this change.

Most of the complaints, 59%, originate with family members or patient reps. Surprisingly, only 16% of the total complaints came from the patients themselves.

The home care complaints were mainly about fees. 66 complaints dealt with the state of communications between the providing services and the patient.

Flexible care services had issues with inadequate staff qualifications, staff behaviour, and infection control protocols, and these comprised a majority of the types of complaints seen.

Residential care complaints mostly stemmed from issues regarding the administration of medication, clinical care issues, and continence care concerns. Residents’ dignity and freedom of choice made up 163 formal complaints. The complaints from this sector were the greatest in number totalling 1,746. Clinical care issues topped the list at 267 complaints.

In the course of resolving and investigating some of the issues, the commissioner made 231 referrals to outside agencies like the Aged Care Quality Agency, the Department of Health and other advocacy groups.
Some promising news showed that 91% of complaints were resolved within a 90 day period. That was up slightly from the same period last year that had 88% of claims finalised within 90 days. 87% of this year’s cases resulted in early resolutions.

Statistics also showed a 23% increase in the number of people who were using the Commissioner as a resource for age-related topics. The office had an increase in calls from individuals making enquiries, but not making complaints. They are generally asking about residents’ rights or the process for making a formal complaint if warranted.

The Aged Care Complaints Commissioner is dedicated to improving response times to complaints and improving the quality of care provided by Government funded services for the aged.

There is a sense of optimism, with the reappointment of the Rae Lamb, and the fact that the work that is being done can progress smoothly and seamlessly.

The Aged Care Complaints Commissioner can be reached by phone at 1800 550 552 or online contact form at https://www.agedcarecomplaints.gov.au/ for easy access to all.

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