Aged care watchdog asleep in its kennel

Article published 28 April 2020

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CPSA is calling for the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (ACQSC) to resume inspections of nursing homes at a time of extreme risk to the health and wellbeing of nursing home residents.

The ACQSC has suspended its regular compliance monitoring of nursing homes. The ACQSC has replaced it with what it calls a ‘risk-based approach’, which appears to depend heavily on telephone contact and contact via Skype and Zoom with nursing homes.

The ACQSC has, to all intents and purposes, stopped entering nursing homes to do its statutory job of protecting nursing home residents when arguably their needs are highest given the coronavirus crisis.

Across Australia, nursing homes have gone into coronavirus lock-down. This means that only residents and those people working at the home have access. Friends and relatives as well as community visitors can no longer get in.

The ACQSC’s ‘risk-based approach’ essentially means that the ACQSC acts on intelligence it receives. A lot of this intelligence comes in the form of complaints. Many, if not most complaints are made by friends and relatives of residents. These friends and relatives can no longer go and see residents. Effectively, they can no longer make complaints.

Clearly, the oversight of aged care quality and safety in Australia is severely compromised. Not only has planned compliance monitoring been suspended, but the scrutiny of nursing home performance by family and friends of residents has also been wiped out.

It is difficult to see why the ACQSC can’t conduct assessments and support visits as usual, including scrutiny of how nursing homes are dealing with coronavirus risk.

This may put ACQSC staff at risk, but why shouldn’t they run the same type of risk as nursing home staff, the nurses, assistants-in-nursing, personal carers, cooks and cleaners?

As the Aged Care Royal Commission has shown, nursing homes need watching. Right now nobody is watching: the aged care watchdog is asleep in its kennel.

Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission staff tend to be better-paid than nursing home staff, yet at the first sign of trouble the Commission runs for cover. What if nurses, assistants-in-nursing, personal carers, cooks and cleaners took this approach?

There is no suggestion that individual ACQSC staff members are unwilling to enter nursing homes.

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