The Minister for Ageing, Justine Elliot will introduce a range of “tough measures” for aged care providers after an article about an increase in aged care complaints was published in a News Limited newspaper.
The article said a report from the Office of Aged Care Quality and Compliance showed the number of complaints against aged care providers had almost tripled to 3947 in the six months to January 2008.
In response to the findings, Mrs Elliot has pledged to bolster the power of the Aged Care Standards and Accreditation Agency and to review the Aged Care Act to “close loopholes” and make improvements to the quality of care.
These measures come on top of earlier commitments from the Minister to broaden police check requirements and to include compulsory clinical checks on residents during facility investigations following an outbreak.
As a first step, the Minister will increase the number of Agency inspections from 4000 to 7000 in the next financial year.
“This is an important step in ensuring that frail aged Australians are receiving the quality care they need and deserve,” she said.
Mrs Elliot will also introduce changes that will make it an offence to mislead the Agency.
“The Aged Care Standards and Accreditation Agency has advised me that it’s not an offence to mislead them,” she said.
“I find this absolutely breathtaking. How could the previous government create an accreditation body and then limit its powers?”
“I intend to change that. As the Minister for Ageing I’ve asked my department to urgently examine these measures and report back to fix it.”
The Australian Nursing Federation has used the opportunity to call for a comprehensive licensing system covering all care staff working in aged care.
The ANF’s Federal Secretary, Jill Iliffe welcomed the Government’s commitment to police checks but said more needed to be done.
“People in aged care facilities have a right to be cared for by appropriately qualified staff. Licensing ensures that there is a regulatory body that sets standards of education and accountability,” she said.
“A licensing framework would ensure assistants in nursing and personal care assistants worked to a code of ethics and provided a high level of care.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Ageing said the Complaints Investigation Scheme had handled 3947 ‘in scope’ cases.
This compares to a total of 1260 complaints to the Complaints Resolution Scheme during the 2005/06 financial year.
But the spokesperson explained that the new scheme was designed to be a “more accessible complaints model [that] would increase the number of issues raised”.