A one-page Department of Health statistical report on aged care was leaked to a journalist at the Courier-Mail. This report contained some astonishing statistics, which show how bad things actually are in residential aged care, but which also show that when the Australian Aged Care Accreditation Agency and the Complaints Commissioner went looking, they found a lot more than they had in previous years.
In the last financial year, the Agency closed down twelve nursing homes, when in the year before that it closed down only four and none at all in the year before that.
Cases where serious risk was found went from just two in 2015-2016 to 61 in 2017-2018.
Notices of non-compliance jumped from 54 to 154 in just one year.
Obviously, these results were within the control of the Agency to achieve by looking more closely.
However, something strange is going on.
Reportable assaults jumped by a massive 32 per cent from 2,853 to 3,773 in 2017-2018.
Missing residents increased by 31 per cent.
These never-before-seen year-on-year increases suggest that nursing homes have become more diligent in reporting these things.
It also suggests that these things have been significantly and chronically under-reported up until now, and perhaps still are.
Similarly, referrals from the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner of complaints to the Agency (which means the Commissioner thinks there might be something seriously wrong) have skyrocketed from 468 to 1,073.
This suggests that complaints are being taken a little bit more seriously by the Aged Care Commissioner these days.
The picture which emerges is one of a sector running scared well before the Royal Commission into Aged Care was announced. Regulatory agencies as well as providers have fronted up with information that shows things are not well in Australia’s nursing homes.
Those same regulatory agencies and providers had been assuring us for decades that things were just fine and dandy.