Four-fold increase in visits

Despite the fact that 98.4 per cent of homes were fully compliant, last year saw a four-fold increase in departmental site visits.

Residential aged care providers experienced a four-fold increase in the number of visits from staff of the Department of Health and Ageing in 2007-08.

The recently released report on the operations of the Aged Care Act shows that the department conducted 3,127 visits to aged care facilities in the 12 months to June 2008. The year before there were just 739 departmental visits.

The main reason for the major increase is the nature of the new Complaints Investigation Scheme (CIS), which was introduced in May last year.

“A major shift in the approach to complaint handling through the CIS, when compared with the Complaints Resolution Scheme which it replaced, is a greater reliance on investigation to quickly test the veracity of complaints and this shift in process invariably includes a site visit,” said a spokesperson for the Minister for Ageing, Justine Elliot.

“This, coupled with the introduction of compulsory reporting on 1 July 2007, has resulted in more visits being made to homes by Scheme staff.”

The CEO of Aged Care Association Australia, Rod Young said the constant scrutiny is undermining staff morale at a time when providers are finding it difficult to attract and retain staff.

“The way visits often tend to occur, it is as if facilities and employees are guilty until they are found innocent,” he said.

“We acknowledge that if something is wrong, it needs to be fixed. But in the process of determining whether a problem has occurred, the staff and the facility need to be treated with fairness and dignity.”

“Many providers do all sorts of things to convey high levels of respect and value to their staff but the system is giving the reverse message.”

Mr Young also said that despite attracting negative press coverage, the report from the minister actually showed high levels of compliance throughout the industry.

At 30 June 2008, 2,784 of the 2,830 Commonwealth-funded residential aged care facilities in Australia (or 98.4 per cent) were fully compliant with the 44 expected outcomes for accreditation.

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