Many aged care consumer stakeholders have provided their support for a new visitor code for residential aged care facilities but some called for a stronger consumer focus during this week’s consultation.
Representatives from consumer organisations Council on the Ageing Australia, Older Persons Advocacy Network, National Seniors Australia and Dementia Australia spoke with aged care residents and their families, friends and representatives during a webinar on Wednesday about the draft Aged Care Visitor Access Code released last week.
The code developed by consumer and provider peak bodies aims to apply a compassionate and consistent visitor policy across facilities that minimises the risk of COVID-19 transmission and provides innovative on-site visiting to support the mental health of aged care residents (read more here).
During the webinar, consumer stakeholders explored how much the code would address their concerns over too strict visitor policies .
COTA Australia chief executive Ian Yates said consumers are largely supportive of the draft code.
“A lot of the input into [the feedback] is supportive but there are a lot of people who are would like the code to be more on the consumer side,” Mr Yates told Australian Ageing Agenda.
“The code is very much closer to what providers are practicing than it is to the national guidance,” said Mr Yates, a panellist on the webinar.
Mr Yates said he hoped the code would help achieve a nationally consistent visitation policy and that aged care providers follow the code.
“Given [the code’s] wide publicity and support from National Cabinet, we would hope that with the endorsement with the provider peaks and the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission saying that it’s a serious piece of best-practice advice… we would hope that all providers would follow the code,” Mr Yates said.
“If it turns out that that is not the case, then the alternative step will be for us to press the government for regulation,” he said.
The code was developed following a large number of complaints to consumer peak bodies about strict visitor entry policies.
“Thousands of complaints were of people who are experiencing strict conditions, not being allowed access at all to many facilities and many restrictions that substantially exceed what the Commonwealth has recommended,” he said.
Other concerns related to residents not being able to receive gifts from loved ones or attend medical appointments, Mr Yates said.
Government directed restrictions allow short visits to aged care facilities limited to a maximum of two people a one time per resident during the day (read more here).
A poll commissioned by provider peak body Aged and Community Services Australia found that 69 per cent of the 1,093 Australians surveyed supported aged care homes preventing visitors except for compassionate reasons and video calls (read more here).
The consultation on the draft code closes at 3pm on Thursday 7 May.
Afterwards , consumer peak bodies will assess the feedback and meet with the provider peaks on Friday and Monday to talk through changes, Mr Yates said.
The code is due to be finalised on Monday 11 May.
OPAN CEO Craig Gear, Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe and National Seniors Australia John McCallum were the other webinar panel members
Access the draft Aged Care Visitor Access Code here.
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