Those of us working in the aged care sector in Australia have recently watched, in horror, as details have emerged from South Australia and Newcastle of shocking incidents and practices in aged care facilities. This has become public news, rightly so, and the government’s response to public outrage is, usually, to launch an inquiry. Which has, of course, happened.
However, the Aged Care Accreditation Standards, and the way in which those standards are assessed, has been under review for some time already. Actually, many years. There was one crack at it a few years ago, which stalled, but when the Quality Agency took over Home Care the move to make a single aged care quality standard was inevitable.
A few weeks ago, the Department of Health released its final consultation on the draft single set of standards and the assessment / review framework. But yet now the Quality Agency faces another inquiry. What no one has answered, yet, is how these two reviews will meet, if in fact they will at all.
But more importantly than that, have we really addressed the issue of aged care quality in Australia? Do we really know what we want to achieve? Do we understand how facilities work, how the staff in those facilities work, and how to balance safety and a person-centred approach?
The Aged Care Accreditation Standards came about because nursing homes were not accountable for providing quality, safe care – it led to poor outcomes for residents, and a workforce that couldn’t sustain itself. The Standards were all about safety, to start with. There were a few nice things in there about meeting the individual’s needs, but essentially, it was about protecting safety, rights, and overall wellbeing. I strongly believe it still achieves this, overall.
The draft single standards want to go in a completely different direction, and focus more on person-centred care. PCC is a model that is very popular in Australia, because it has worked so well overseas. I feel, though, that no one has asked – are our facilities the same as they are overseas? Is our workforce the same?
I would love to say that Australia provides person-centred care. But we don’t. Not yet. We provide very good care; we have wonderful staff, and we have commitment at all levels, from what I’ve seen, to give residents the best quality of life that we can.
But – we are over-regulated, we are not funded adequately (I’ll concede that the government is reviewing the funding model also), and our workplaces are just not yet set up for true person-centred care.
The trouble with aged care quality in Australia is that the support system it needs isn’t there yet. We need to address that first. I believe that quality will remain the same – despite a new model, standards, or inquiries – until we can address the support system first.
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