Govt on right track in residential aged care—but could do more

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

‘The Australian Government is on the right track in fixing quality-of-care issues in government-funded residential aged care facilities—but to be top of the class they could do more’, says Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) Acting Chief Executive Dr Linc Thurecht.

Dr Thurecht was commenting on the Australian Government’s response to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport’s Report on the Inquiry into the Quality of Care in Residential Aged Care Facilities in Australia.

‘The government has either supported or supported-in-principle 12 out of the report’s 14 recommendations. They have chosen to “note” the other two recommendations, citing other government initiatives already under way or planned in those areas. 

‘Importantly the government supports better access to GPs by residential aged care residents. Earlier this year they implemented changes to the Medical Benefits Schedule that recognise the time and additional costs incurred by GPs in delivering these services.

‘We think the government could go further by investigating the cost-effectiveness of innovative primary healthcare services such as follow-up telephone or video conversations with their general practitioner, physiotherapist, pharmacist or palliative care support person.

‘The government is treading carefully—maybe too carefully—in “noting” the Committee’s recommendation that residential aged care facilities have one registered nurse on duty at all times.

‘While we support the Government’s thinking that every aged care facility’s situation is different in terms of staff/resident mix and clinical activity, we also think that medicines access is required 24 hours a day, and that this will likely require registered nurses.

‘Similarly, we feel that the government is being too tentative in “noting” the committee’s suggestions for reviewing and possibly replacing the current funding mechanism, the Aged Care Funding Instrument (ACFI).

‘ACFI is clearly not fit-for-purpose given the concerning-to-horrific practices already exposed by media and social media sources, and the government should proceed directly to investigating other funding methods’, Dr Thurecht said.

‘On the other hand, we are pleased with the Government’s support for unannounced audits of residential aged care facilities, including outside of business hours, and their support in principle that all assaults, including by cognitively impaired residents, are reported.

‘Mandatory reporting of assaults by non-staff members should also be permitted, unlike the current situation.

‘We agree with the government’s view that government funding brings with it mandatory data reporting obligations by aged care providers against a broader range of quality indicators than previously.

‘But we suggest consumers and researchers be involved in developing what data are to be reported, in addition to people working in the aged care sector.

‘Finally, it is pleasing that the government, the committee, and AHHA all agree on setting up a rating system (such as a star rating system) for residential aged care facilities.’

More information on AHHA is available at ahha.asn.au

The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association is the national peak body for public and not-for-profit hospitals, Primary Health Networks, and community and primary healthcare services.

Media enquiries:  Dr Linc Thurecht, A/Chief Executive, AHHA

0401 393 729