An aged care peak body has expressed concerns about the scope of incidents and lack of information for the sector’s new incident reporting scheme less than six weeks before its due to start.

Leading Age Services Australia CEO Sean Rooney said  the peak body supported measures to improve quality and safety in aged care homes, but has concerns about the Serious Incident Response Scheme’s model.

“With regards to SIRS our consistent feedback to government has been that the model proposed will likely cover all potential incidents, rather than just serious incidents.

“The result being a focus on reporting that takes staff away from other activities and makes it difficult to identify trends in the most serious incidents,” Mr Rooney told Australian Ageing Agenda.

Sean Rooney

The Aged care legislation amendment (Serious Incident Response Scheme and other measures) Bill 2020, which was introduced in December, passed in Parliament on Monday.

The SIRS aims to prevent incidences of abuse and neglect of older Australians in care and requires residential aged care providers to manage all incidents, with a focus on the safety and wellbeing of consumers and reduce preventable incidents from reoccurring.

Reporting under the SIRS includes a range of new matters including sexual misconduct, neglect, psychological abuse, inappropriate use of restraint, and unexpected death.

In December, the government announced the start date for the scheme would be brought forward to 1 April from its original 1 July start.

Mr Rooney said despite supposedly starting soon, the subordinate legislation and guidance from the regulator was still not available.  

“After taking more than three years to develop the rules – aged care services have less than six weeks to implement this major change to operational systems, processes and staff responsibilities,” Mr Rooney said.

“This is at a time when we are doing all we can to keep residents and staff safe in the pandemic, and with COVID vaccines are rolling at out in aged care homes, and with the majority of services struggling financially.

“Clearer incident reporting requirements are supported, although much of the detail of this will be included in the subordinate legislation which has not yet been made available,” he said.

The SIRS expands the responsibilities of residential aged care providers in relation to identifying, recording, managing, resolving and reporting assaults and a broader range of serious incidents in residential aged care (read more here).

Richard Colbeck

Minister for Aged Care Services Richard Colbeck said the measures reinforced the government’s commitment to prioritising the needs of older Australians.

“The Commonwealth continues to build on and strengthen the aged care sector as we anticipate the final recommendations from the royal commission later this month,” Mr Colbeck said.

“Importantly, these latest measures offer security and peace-of-mind for all older Australians in residential and in-home care settings and for their families.”

AAA has sought a response about when the supporting guidance will be available.

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  1. Why are we funding yet another body of people to investigate the obvious.
    Incidents will.occur whole staffing levels,skills and knowledge are low.
    Put feet on the ground with intelligence and make accountability at management and board level.

  2. For decades the aged care sector has been plagued by large for profit providers cutting costs and others failing to meet standards. The majority of providers simply want the bad operators out and less red tape please.

  3. Accountability is at management and board level. The majority of perpetrators of serious incidents do not come from management or the board. Inaction and deception may have occurred in some cases at facility management level, however, part of the problem has been the incidents of resident abuse by staff has gone unreported and poorly managed by inaction or incorrect action from the facility management, not executive and board levels. The management and board are the ones trying to ensure all of the continual changes are introduced to all staff, residents and families, so all are kept safe and free from infection and abuse. The organisation receives no funding for all of these requirements, yet are meant to be able to ensure these systems and processes are introduced, become mainstream action and reporting guidelines are followed. It is time to get rid of the “Blame Game” – management and the board versus everyone else – time to work as true teams to ensure no staff cause abuse, all infection prevention and control guidelines are followed, and all are held accountable for their actions and behaviours.

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