The industry has expressed concerns after the Minister for Ageing proposed another mandatory reporting requirement for aged care providers.
Under the plan all approved providers would be required to notify the Department of Health and Ageing when a person goes missing without notification.
The new requirement would apply to respite care, transitional care and flexible services as well as residential aged care.
It follows at least three reports of people going missing from aged care services in recent weeks.
A statement from the department said the measure was designed, “to further protect and enhance safety for residents, particularly those with a diagnosis of dementia”.
But the Minister for Ageing, Justine Elliot said it would have a broader application.
“I believe that the issue is not primarily about whether someone has dementia or not, but whether appropriate action is taken by the aged care provider when any resident is identified as missing without explanation,” Mrs Elliot said.
“This is a complex matter; it is about ensuring providers are fulfilling their duty of care to residents, while supporting residents’ rights to come and go – which is part of maintaining their quality of life.”
Aged Care Association Australia CEO, Rod Young said the announcement was perplexing because most providers already take appropriate steps when a resident goes missing.
“My major concern is that this is more regulation being placed upon the industry in the name of protecting everybody other than the resident,” he said.
“Requirements to report to the Department usually create another burdensome obligation on providers and their staff.
“These reports often trigger a visit from the department or the agency, or both, which are simply driving our staff out of the industry. They face inspection after inspection where the accusing finger pointed at them as being deficient until they prove themselves innocent.”
Mr Young said he was aware of three senior staff members who had left the industry in the past week because of blame and intense pressure from bureaucrats.
He was also unaware of any consultation with the industry about the plan.
The Minister would like to see the reporting requirements in place by the end of the year.
In a separate measure, Mrs Elliot has asked the Office of Aged Care Quality and Compliance to consult with the Minister’s Dementia Advisory Group about giving medi-tags to all dementia residents.
The consultations will consider recent research conducted by Alzheimer’s Australia about the feasibility of a national symbol for cognitive impairment.
The Executive Director of Alzheimer’s Australia, Glenn Rees said the idea for a national symbol was suggested by carers and people with dementia at a summit in October last year.
“It was the example of the wheelchair symbol that really caught the imagination of consumers at the national conference,” said Rees.
“We would of course, insist that such a symbol would be subject to individual consent.”
Mr Rees said that the Western Australian division of Alzheimer’s Australia was looking into various technologies to monitor people with dementia.
“We believe that tracking devices could be helpful but we are concerned that people could see it as a panacea where it really is only one of many options,” he said.