To help aged care providers with the transition to the new quality standards, Julie McStay addresses key challenges they may face in this new quality conversations column.
Hynes Legal has been out and about recently talking to providers about the challenges they are facing with transitioning to the new Aged Care Quality Standards.
As providers transition to the new Aged Care Quality Standards we will be sharing regular updates relating to key legal and clinical issues with the help of our clinical consultant.
Our first ‘quality conversation’ relates to managing consumer choice, approved provider responsibilities and the commercial realities of running an aged care business.
Supporting consumer choice is increasingly important under the new standards. However providers are operating in an environment where funding is limited and organisations are facing new challenges to ensure the ongoing financial viability of their services.
We recently spoke with the CEO of a not-for-profit residential aged care provider who was considering how their organisation would be able to support consumer choice while maintaining a sustainable business model.
They asked whether the new standards would change the way providers responded to some of the most common challenges providers face when discussing choice.
For example, the issues that come up frequently about accommodating the requests of residents who might wish to be served their hot meal at midnight, or how the provider would respond if all residents asked to be showered at 7am during the breakfast rush and morning medication round.
While consumer choice is central to the new standards, this is still subject to the understanding that consumers will not always be able to exercise unfettered choice.
Choice will be influenced by a range of factors.
It may not be possible to accommodate a consumer’s choice if it would have an adverse impact on others.
For example, we agree that it is probably not possible to accommodate everyone’s request if all residents want to be showered at 7am as this would adversely impact on the provider’s ability to ensure all residents receive their breakfast and morning medications.
Choice may also be limited by the care and services a provider is required to provide and has agreed to provide under the agreement with the consumer.
The starting point is that providers must of course continue to provide the care and services they are required to provide under the legislation. And the resident agreement cannot contain any provision that would have the effect of the consumer being treated any less favourably than the consumer is otherwise entitled to be treated at law, including under the Aged Care Act and Principles.
While under the Quality of Care Principles 2014 providers must provide “meals of adequate variety, quality and quantity for each care recipient, served each day at times generally acceptable to care recipients and management”, that certainly does not mean that providers could practically provide fresh hot meals on request for every resident 24 hours a day.
But the provider should work with the consumer to facilitate a way to meet their request. For example, the provider might ensure there are a number of pre-prepared meals that can be heated in the microwave overnight in the event a resident asks for a hot meal.
Consumer choice is about a partnership between the consumer and the approved provider working together to find a way to accommodate the consumer’s wishes in a way that is reasonable and fair.
Julie McStay is director at Hynes Legal.
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