A Senate inquiry into aged care quality assessment and accreditation is struggling to capture the interest of an industry regularly under review and a Senate with much on its plate.
The Senate inquiry, launched on 13 June, is looking into the 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.
It was referred to the Community Affairs Committee by Senator Nick Xenophon in response to the reported incidents in the Makk and McLeay Aged Mental Health Care Service at Oakden in South Australia and the committee’s examination is in the context of these incidents.
The inquiry is also examining the division of responsibility and accountability between residents and their families, agency and permanent staff, aged care providers, and the state and the federal governments for reporting on and acting on adverse incidents.
However, the Senate investigation has been overshadowed in the inquiry stakes on this issue by the Government’s Review of National Aged Care Quality Regulatory Processes led by Kate Carnell and Professor Ron Paterson.
That review received over 400 submissions and its report due date was recently extended by four weeks to 29 September 2017 to allow sufficient time to analyse the feedback.
In contrast, the Senate inquiry has received few submissions, 12 of which were uploaded by the closing date of 4 August.
There have been none uploaded since, but the committee confirmed to AAA on Thursday this week that additional submissions received before and since then were being processed for upload.
Available submissions came from industry groups including Aged and Community Services Australia and Leading Age Services Australia, nursing associations and other agencies that have recently examined issues covering the committee’s terms of reference.
The submission from Aged Care Complaints Commissioner Rae Lamb pointed out that there were three bodies already involved in quality regulation, including herself.
Ms Lamb said when she began in 2016 they did not inherit any open cases about Makk and McLeay Nursing Home.
Both LASA and ACSA said that the industry’s quality system was not broken and should focus more strongly on continuous quality improvement, with facilities having a right of reply to a complaint.
HammondCare pointed to regulatory research showing that the best way to monitor care “is to focus on outcomes not tick a box” in its submission.
“If there are too many standards with too many specific protocols, neither nurses, care staff nor inspectors can keep up with them all. When you have a small number of standards that aren’t too prescriptive, it works better for everyone,” HammondCare said.
The Australian National Audit Office, Australian Law Reform Commission and NSW Mental Health Commission referred to their recent relevant recommendations about indigenous aged care elder abuse, the aged care workforce, use of restraints, the role of community visitors, and publications on mental health and old age.
Single public hearing
Senator Xenophon told AAA that the committee would go through the submissions and may invite those stakeholders to attend the inquiry’s only public hearing, in Adelaide on 21 November.
“Health and aged care officials, professionals and representatives from the South Australian Government will also be invited. However, they are not compelled to attend,” he said.
“The committee is also expecting victims of abuse and or their families to attend and give evidence.”
Senate Community Affairs Committee chair Rachel Siewert issued a public statement on Friday 25 August to address stakeholder concerns about the inquiry and the number of submissions received and uploaded.
She said “the committee has received approximately 46 submissions”.
The committee confirmed this figure was current at close of business Tuesday 29 August.
Senator Siewert said the 46 submissions came from state and federal government agencies, aged care providers and their representative organisations, advocacy groups, medical and allied health practitioner groups, aged care workers and a number of family members of aged care residents.
“A number of these submissions deal with very sensitive and often quite distressing matters for the people involved, and the committee carefully considers each submission as it comes in. Publication on the website occurs once a submission has been thoroughly reviewed, sometimes in consultation with the submitters, and when resources are available to do so.”
As at close of business on 29 August, 16 submissions have been uploaded.
In response to the number of concurrent reviews underway, Ms Siewert said the committee has been flexible in receiving submissions beyond the formal closing date.
The committee is holding a public hearing on 21 November in Adelaide and is due to report back to the Senate by 18 February 2018.
This story was updated Wednesday 30 August.
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