Aged Care Facilities – havens or hellholes?

The recent report of the long-standing maltreatment of older people – many with dementia – in two aged care facilities run by Oakden Mental Health Service in South Australia, has highlighted issues with the type of accreditation carried out by the Aged Care Quality Agency. The agency states on its web site that its function is to accredit government-subsidised aged care homes (the majority) and provide compliance monitoring.
In 2015-2016, the agency made 4,251 visits to the 2671 facilities and there were only 13 review audits (where the agency was concerned about Accreditation Standards not being met) out of 858 reaccreditation audits. That is 1.5 percent of the reaccreditation audits required additional reviews.
According to analysis by Andrew Burrell in the Weekend Australian (April 29-30), only 4 facilities had sanctions imposed. It appears that facilities can pass accreditation as they are given enough notice to clean their act up before Agency assessors arrived, and the scope of the accreditation standards were often vague and difficult to interpret or apply. Burrell states that at least 10 facilities met accreditation standards despite them failing to provide an adequate standard of care.
In response, the Federal Aged Care Minister, Ken Wyatt, has commissioned an independent review of the Agency’s processes and report any shortcomings in the Agency’s processes.
It is easy to see why the Agency might have a light touch approach to accreditation. The demand for aged care places is high and growing, and there will be a reluctance on the Agency’s part to sanction an operator where they say they will redress the issues raised. A public listing of facilities with accreditation issues – both past and present- and provider reactions on the Agency web site might bring about some positive changes.

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