What happened at South Australia’s Oakden Older Persons Mental Health Service was horrific, and has shaken the aged care industry to the core.

Years of elder abuse and neglect went on without any regulatory body or accreditation agency noticing. However, eventually they were found out and the facility was closed.

Since the incident, a Senate Inquiry into aged care regulatory processes was conducted after failures of care were identified at the Mack and McLeay wards.

Earlier this week, the interim report for Effectiveness of the Aged Care Quality Assessment and accreditation framework for protecting residents from abuse and poor practices, and ensuring proper clinical and medical care standards are maintained and practised was released by the Senate Community Affairs References Committee.

This report identifies numerous failures in the system, which need to be addressed to ensure the community can continue to have confidence in the Agency’s role upholding safety and quality for all those relying on aged care.

LASA CEO Sean Rooney said quality in aged care is not negotiable.

“There are no excuses for the failures in care that were identified at Oakden – it breaches the guidelines, processes and standards that are in place to ensure high quality care for older Australians,” Mr Rooney said.

“This [report] gives rise to concerns regarding the regulator’s ability to effectively apply the aged care system’s quality and oversight frameworks more broadly, which the Committee has said will be further investigated.

“As an industry we all have a role to play in seeking to continuously maintain and improve high standards in quality care and service. This is what the community expects, and the quality standards demand, in order for our industry to maintain its ‘social licence to operate’.

“Aged services providers, government and the community all share a desire for a high performing aged care sector. The concerns identified in the interim report must be addressed in order to retain the confidence across older Australians, their families, providers of age services and the wider community.”

Aged & Community Services Australia (ACSA) urged the ongoing review to closely consider the role of the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency (AACQA) in upholding the standards the community expects in aged care.

ACSA CEO, Pat Sparrow, said the comprehensive account of the failures of care at Oakden identified in the report emphasise the importance of having an accreditation system that works for the protection of older Australians in aged care.

“The safety and quality of life of older Australians is the number one priority of our efforts as aged care providers. It is vital that those receiving and providing care are supported by firm but fair regulation that protects those principles, as well as identifying and punishing abuse and neglect where they occur.”

“The community, and the industry, relies on the proper functioning of the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency (AACQA) for the upkeep of those standards, and we urge the review to continue to look into the efficacy of the Agency in this role.”

“While an individual provider is at fault when care standards are poor, the role of the Agency is to identify and address this for the residents, the community and for us as an industry.”

Existing Report and Reviews Have Already Been Done

Mr Rooney said the report’s findings also need to be considered alongside existing work in response to the Carnell Paterson Review and the new single aged care quality framework.

“The interim recommendation that dementia care be reclassified as a ‘health service’ could have far reaching implications for both the aged care and health sectors. This will require further detailed examination.”

What this is in reference to is Reccomendation 2 in the Interim Report;

The committee recommends that in the current aged care oversight reforms being undertaken, all dementia-related and other mental health services being delivered in an aged care context must be correctly classified as health services not aged care services, and must therefore be regulated by the appropriate health quality standards and accreditation processes.

LASA have said that they will continue to engage with the government as responses to the different aged care quality inquiries are formulated.

Mr Rooney said as an industry, we are committed to ensuring that catastrophic breaches of quality standards, such as those at Oakden, can never happen again.

“To do this we need an accreditation system that assures the community of the safety, wellbeing and quality of life for older Australians living in residential aged care.”

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