A Tougher Stance
Amicum have been working with aged care facility owners across the Eastern States for many years and over the last six months have witnessed a paradigm shift of seismic proportion in the residential aged care sector. This change in the attitude of the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (formerly the Quality Agency) has resulted in operators engaging in increasingly difficult conversations, regarding their long-term future.
It is apparent that the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission is now taking a zero tolerance stance in some areas of the Accreditation Standards, the one we have noticed in particular is 4.4 Living Environment.
For ease of understanding, the definition of Standard 4.4 is:
“This expected outcome requires that management of the residential care service is actively working to provide a safe and comfortable environment consistent with care recipients’ care needs”.
Over recent months we have observed a spike in “unmet outcomes” particularly in the type identified above. At the time of writing, there are well over 60 facilities in NSW, VIC, QLD & SA that have been issued with non-compliances and/or sanctions. No sector of the industry has been spared. Church and Charity, State and Private operators have all succumbed to the shift in focus by the Safety Commission.
Whilst we are not building surveyors, it appears that the general approach adopted is that, if the overall building is not to the standard expected, then a zero tolerance stance is taken during the inspection or unannounced visit. This results in what some may regard as rather minor matters being included in the findings, such as:
– “…the wardrobe doors have mismatched knobs…”
– “…the balconies… have cobwebs…”
– “…the paint is chipped…”
To be fair, the above examples are taken from a list of items of which the majority appear to be reasonable concerns, which need addressing. We also make the point that it is not our desire to critique the Safety Commission’s findings nor method of assessment. In fact, we encourage and support the stringent meeting of all facets of the Accreditation Standards in all aged care facilities for the benefit of their respective residents and staff members.
We simply highlight the fact that the recent findings which may have been considered trivial on previous visits now appear to contribute to an ‘unmet outcome’ and that this will be strictly enforced by the regulator without any margin.
We do not believe that there are stakeholders in residential aged care that have any issue with the adherence and enforcement of all Accreditation Standards relating to care of residents. In our opinion however, some tolerance is required in the enforcement of Living Environment issues. Otherwise the implication is that the highest quality of care cannot be provided in any aged care facility, other than a 5-star building. Clearly this proposition is nonsense and a slur on those who provide excellent care in buildings that are older and not in pristine condition.
So, if you have owned your facility for many years and provided excellent care, however, your building is older and you have some deferred maintenance items, you may have some serious issues to deal with in the short term and may want to prepare accordingly.
As an aged care operator, you may ask, ‘What has changed? After all, it is the same building and the same care as 12 months ago’. The answer is simply an Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner who is ensuring the Accreditation Standards are being met. There appears to be a clear link between the sudden strict enforcement of standards and the recent media coverage on Aged Care homes and the Royal Commission into Aged Care.
It is our opinion that this is probably just the beginning. Should you wish to discuss any of the issue raised, please do not hesitate to contact our office.
Best Wishes from the Team at AMICUM