Some aged care providers lack the right balance between care quality and safety considerations and financial concerns, the royal commission has heard.
Providers ought to consider whether they should make certain decisions such as cutting staff, not just whether they can, senior counsel assisting Peter Rozen told the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.
Last week’s hearing of the aged care royal commission in Hobart focused on the leadership and governance of aged care providers Southern Cross Care Tasmania and Bupa Aged Care Tasmania (read other coverage here).
Both Southern Cross Care Tasmania and Bupa South Hobart had reduced staff because of financial pressures, and both then had facilities sanctioned for unmet quality outcomes.
Key themes highlighted by witnesses included:
- deficiencies in care caused by insufficient care time
- deficient organisational culture
- insufficient attention to quality and safe clinical care
- poor communications from facilities
- a lack of responsiveness to complaints.
The royal commission heard that financial considerations at both organisations were prioritised at the expense of care, Mr Rozen said.
Former facility managers at Southern Cross Care Tasmania told the royal commission they felt pressured to reduce staff numbers irrespective of the impact on care.
A general practitioner and former and current staff at Bupa South Hobart told the royal commission their concerns about the impact of reducing nursing staff hours and skill levels were ignored.
“This week’s evidence has raised questions about whether the right balance has been struck between quality and safety of care considerations on the one hand, and financial considerations on the other hand in some of our aged care providers,” Mr Rozen told the royal commission.
“Financial viability must be a central consideration of proper business management in both profit and not-for-profit entities,” he said.
“But it must be remembered that financial viability is a means to an end in aged care; it is not an end in itself.”
He said the evidence presented throughout the week highlighted the risks to residents when governing bodies of approved providers prioritised financial and funding-considerations over quality and safe care.
“We must have an aged care system in which organisations have the governance, leadership culture and skills to ensure that high-quality and safe care becomes not just a stated vision but the daily practice of all involved in caring for older Australians.
“A system in which the decision-makers and approved providers consider not only whether they can make decisions such as cutting staff but whether they should make such decisions,” Mr Rozen said in his closing statement.
To stay up to date on the latest about the Royal Commission into Aged Care and Quality go to our special coverage.
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