Retired medical professionals and community advocates would undertake random inspections of aged care facilities under a new plan being proposed by a national advocacy group for older Australians.

Greysafe, a not for profit organisation that works to prevent the abuse, neglect and exploitation of older Australians, will write to the Federal Minister for Aged Care Ken Wyatt, highlighting the urgent need to hire an independent team of ‘Grey Guardians’ across Australia in the wake of a new emerging battle between bureaucrats and the aged care industry over who will pay for random inspections to check that residents are receiving adequate care.

Greysafe CEO Michael Riley, said the power struggle between the aged care industry and the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency (AACQA) is extraordinary at a time when reportable assaults in aged care facilities have increased over the past three years and in the wake of disturbing new reports emerging in the past week broadcast on Channel 7 in Adelaide and the ABC’s 7.30 report showing horrific examples of poor care and standards in accredited aged care facilities.

“We are beyond a crisis point in residential aged care in this country. Not only are we hearing of new reports of accredited facilities subsequently been found to be substandard, but reportable assaults in aged care facilities have increased for the past three years. The last publicly available report released by the Federal Government in 2015/16, showed that nearly 3,000 aged care residents were victims of reportable assaults.

“Those figures are distressing enough but we are concerned about how many alleged assaults and serious incidents don’t get reported by aged care facilities and at a time when the media is uncovering new cases of neglect and poor standards on a weekly basis. Clearly, if the media are uncovering poor standards of care at facilities that have been previously ticked off and accredited by the government agency, then the accreditation and random inspection process is broken.  

“The community and many staff that work in the system have lost confidence in residential aged care. Yet the aged care peak bodies and the government regulator’s response is to start a slanging match over who should pay for a random inspection that would cost a facility between $2,000 and $5,000 once a year, if it took place at all.”      

Under the new model being proposed by Greysafe:

  • AACQA would retain control and implementation of the ‘tick the box’ aged care accreditation scheme but random inspections would no longer be part of AACQA’s charter.
  • The number of random inspections would increase. The Federal Government would set a minimum quota for the number of inspections needing to take place across all parts of Australia.
  • The Federal Government would call for expressions of interest from retired doctors, nurses, social workers and trained professional advocates to form locally based teams of Grey Guardians who would undertake more regular random inspections to both assess and report on the care and condition of aged care residents and the facilities themselves.
  • The Grey Guardians would report into an independent office separate from the AACQA.
  • Guardians would be locally based in and around their communities, be retired or semi retired and not currently employed as an aged care assessor with AACQA.
  • Guardians would be paid a small stipend to cover costs and would be available to conduct inspections, if required, out of office hours and on weekends. (At present, random inspections by AACQA assessors generally take place between the hours of nine to five, Monday to Friday.)
  • Interviews with residents, their families and nursing staff would become the first priority for random inspection visits. At present, under the AACQA managed system, discussions with families and residents forms the smallest percentage of an aged care accreditation assessment.

To support the implementation of the Grey Guardian scheme and improve transparency in the aged care accreditation and inspection process, Greysafe is calling on the Federal Minister for Aged Care to implement a number of other changes that will go some way towards rebuilding community trust in the system.

They include:  

  • Each quarter, the government would take out advertising space in major newspapers and publish a report card, for the previous three months, of the number of assaults in aged care and the details of aged care facilities that have failed to meet 100% compliance with accreditation and random inspection checks.
  • In the newspaper report card, publish the numbers of random inspections conducted during the quarter, including the names of the facilities inspected and the findings.

“We believe this new plan is a win-win for the government and aged care residents and their families. There would be an immediate and significant increase in the number of random inspections taking place at aged care facilities across Australia staffed by retired professionals with the expertise and availability to be on site more often. Most importantly, by publicly reporting inspection findings quarterly in the national media and seeing immediately where improvements have been made, or need to be rectified, Australians might start regaining confidence in their residential aged care system.”

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