Some pressing COVID questions for the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission
THE Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission has again ceased site visits to nursing homes. The Commission was criticised for doing this at the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020. Back then, it ceased site visits Australia-wide. This time, the Commission has ceased site visits to homes in the Greater Sydney area only.
The Commission bases its decision on the stay-at-home orders issued by the NSW Government and specific advice to aged care providers. The advice says that homes must “exclude all visitors, except those providing essential caring functions and end of life visits”.
Does the Commission’s work monitoring compliance with aged care standards by nursing homes an essential caring function? Specifically, are the visits made by Commission staff part of carrying out an essential caring function? Surely it’s an essential function?
Whether the Commission’s suspension of visits to nursing homes in greater Sydney is its alone or an explicit requirement by NSW Health, what is certain is that nursing home residents will miss out on the consumer protection afforded by the Commission’s site visits at a time when the vast majority of residents have been fully vaccinated and at reduced risk from COVID-19 infection.
The question also is whether the Commission is banned from fulfilling its obligations under the official Protocol to support joint management of a COVID-19 outbreak in one or more residential aged care facility (RACF) in NSW. These obligations include among others to “respond to identified compliance issues, including escalating concerns that cannot be resolved locally immediately to the Senior Inter- governmental Oversight Group”. The italics are ours.
In advice given to providers, the Commission is reported as saying it has made phone calls to all services operating in Greater Sydney asking specific questions regarding COVID preparedness and the currency of Outbreak Management Plans.
What is the Commission going to do if there is an outbreak? Has it also pulled out of the SummitCare nursing home in Baulkham Hills?