Watch­dog for se­niors

Aged care re­forms put nurs­ing homes on no­tice

Herald Sun - - NEWS - ROB HAR­RIS AND TOM MINEAR rob.har­

A NEW safety watch­dog and crit­i­cal in­ci­dent re­sponse units will zero in on dodgy nurs­ing homes to try to en­sure Aus­tralians in aged care are treated with dig­nity and re­spect.

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment will to­day an­nounce a sweep­ing over­haul of the aged care sys­tem, which looks af­ter 1.3 mil­lion se­nior cit­i­zens, fol­low­ing a string of hor­ri­fy­ing nurs­ing home scan­dals.

An in­de­pen­dent com­mis­sioner will be put in charge of safety and qual­ity stan­dards, giv­ing older peo­ple and their fam­i­lies and friends a sin­gle point of con­tact to ad­dress prob­lems with their care.

Aged care homes will be sub­ject to tougher stan­dards, which will ap­ply to food and med­i­cal treat­ment, and will face unan­nounced inspections.

Care providers who break the rules face be­ing named and shamed in an on­line reg­is­ter.

The gov­ern­ment will also set up a se­ri­ous in­ci­dent re­sponse scheme with rov­ing teams of ex­perts to deal with crises such as last year’s flu out­break at St John’s Vil­lage nurs­ing home in Wan­garatta, which claimed 10 lives. An au­dit found se­ri­ous man­age­ment fail­ures and in­ad­e­quate in­fec­tion con­trol: only 30 per cent of staff had had the flu vac­cine be­fore win­ter, and con­tin­gency plans to cope with an out­break were in­ad­e­quate.

“Our se­nior Aus­tralians have built the na­tion that we en­joy to­day,” Aged Care Min­is­ter Ken Wy­att told the Her­ald Sun. “They have rightly earned the re­spect of the com­mu­nity and must be cared for with the dig­nity they de­serve.”

Un­der the changes, to be in force by next Jan­uary 1, aged care agen­cies will be merged in a new Aged Care Qual­ity and Safety Com­mis­sion.

“The uni­fied new com­mis­sion will be a re­spon­sive, on­estop shop to pre­vent fail­ures and high­light qual­ity con­cerns and have them quickly rec­ti­fied,” Mr Wy­att said.

A new Chief Clin­i­cal Ad­viser will ad­vise the com­mis­sion, par­tic­u­larly on com­plex clin­i­cal mat­ters.

The re­forms have been driven by a spe­cial task­force on age­ing, run by the Prime Min­is­ter’s of­fice, which is also tai­lor­ing next month’s Bud­get to win over older vot­ers.

The re­forms fol­low warn­ings that the na­tion’s nurs­ing homes need $33 bil­lion of in­vest­ment over the next decade.

The es­tab­lish­ment of a com­mis­sion is in re­sponse to a re­view of fail­ures at South Aus­tralian’s Oak­den Older Per­sons Men­tal Health Ser­vice, which crit­i­cised the re­sponse to prob­lems of el­der abuse and ne­glect.

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