Aged care facilities applying for places in the next Aged Care Approvals Round (ACAR) will need to demonstrate that they are prepared for natural disasters such as bushfires and floods.
Providers applying for new beds will need to stipulate that they have met state and territory and local government planning and evacuation requirements.
The Commonwealth Government has imposed the new requirement in response to the Victorian bushfires and Queensland floods earlier this year.
The Minister for Ageing, Justine Elliot said although there were no nursing homes fatalities during these disasters, a number of facilities had to be evacuated.
“Continuing to care for and evacuating older frail people from nursing homes during a time of disaster can be very challenging and – at times – dangerous for them, especially high care residents,” she said.
The Department of Health and Ageing will work with relevant state and territory agencies to develop an emergency communication plan for existing homes and hostels.
Aged and Community Care Victoria (ACCV), which represents most of the homes evacuated following the Black Saturday fires in February, says the industry responded well to the challenging situations it faced.
“The bushfires demonstrated the amazing capacity of the aged and community care industry to respond quickly under extremely tough circumstances,” said the association’s CEO, Gerard Mansour.
“When you consider the needs of the frail aged people our industry care for in aged care facilities and in their own homes, it is clear that they actually did an outstanding job.”
Mr Mansour said the fires also revealed a need for coordinated responses to disaster planning across entire regions.
“In the past a lot of our disaster planning has been based on individual sites but a disaster of this type brings to a head the need to have a regional strategy,” he said.
“There were stages during these fires when we could have had to evacuate five to six facilities within a one-kilometre radius.
“Thankfully it didn’t come to that but the fact that it could have showed us that we need to consider our planning in a new way.”
The organisation’s board has established a working party for disaster planning which will provide feedback about the bushfire experience to federal, state and local governments.
The Australian Medical Association (AMA) says aged care facilities must also be required to ensure their residents have adequate medical care.
“Disasters like fires and floods are important but occasional threats to the physical safety of residents in some aged care homes,” said the association’s president, Dr Rosanna Capolingua.
“But aged care residents around Australia suffer from serious health conditions every day of the year and some residents are missing out on the medical care they need.”
The AMA wants the federal government to amend the nursing home accreditation system to include an outcome about access to medical care.