A South Australian home care provider has been sanctioned after the Department of Health deemed it “an immediate and severe risk to the health, safety and wellbeing of care recipients”.

The sanctions mean Assist Home Care won’t receive government funding to take on any new care recipients for six months.

The Department of Health wrote to all care recipients of Assist Home Care, and all were placed with other providers.

Assist Home Care currently has no care recipients, according to the spokesperson from the Department.

The sanctions mean the home care provider must appoint an adviser and an administrator at its own expense, which it did on 9 October 2018, according to the My Aged Care website.

“The administrator on the ground is in regular contact with care recipients,” the spokesperson from the Department said.

The Department identified concerns about Assist Home Care’s risk management, access and service delivery, and care planning development and delivery, among other factors.

“The paramount consideration throughout the compliance process is the health, welfare and interests of current and future aged care recipients,” the spokesperson said.

The sanctions were imposed on 5 October 2018, and will expire on 5 April 2019.

Why aren’t home care providers also subject to unannounced checks?

While we often hear that aged care facilities have been sanctioned, it’s less often we hear that home care providers have been issued with this penalty.

Why is this?

As of 30 June 2018, there were 869 approved home care providers operating in Australia, an increase of nearly 2 per cent in only three months. This compares with around 2,700 nursing homes in operation in Australia.

As of 31 March 2018, there were 84,971 people receiving government funding for home care – an increase of nearly 10 per cent in only three months, and a 20 per cent increase in a year.

The number of people receiving home care is only going to grow, so it’s important that the appropriate checks and balances are in place to ensure these services are monitored and of an appropriately high standard.

Home care takes place in private spaces away from public view. What is the best way to gain clarity about the quality and appropriateness of these services?

Currently, the processes in place to monitor home care can make it difficult to get an accurate picture of what is really occurring ‘on the ground’.

Often assessors only make a phone call to care recipients to obtain a verbal assessment of the care they are receiving.

While assessors can check processes and systems at the care provider’s offices, it can be difficult for them to obtain a true sense of the care being delivered in people’s homes.

In addition, home care providers are given 28 days’ notice before a site visit.

“All home care reviews and monitoring visits are scheduled,” according to the Department of Health.

We know that unannounced audits and increased vigilance by the regulators led an increase in the number of providers being identified as failing to meet quality standards and led also to an increase in the number of facilities being sanctioned.

As there are no unannounced checks for home care providers, could we be missing gaps in this important and growing sector of the market?

The Department of Health and the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency continue to monitor Assist Home Care.

HelloCare contacted Assist Home Care for a comment but at the time of publishing had not yet received a response.

If families or friends have any concerns about the care of their relatives they should contact the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner on 1800 550 552.

Please note: The image used to illustrate this article does not represent actual people or events.

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