Independent commission welcomed

By Cobram Courier

Aged care regulation, compliance and complaints handling in the Murray electorate will be brought together in a new and independent Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.

A new performance rating system against the quality standards will also be introduced, providing access to a comparison tool when selecting aged care providers.

The establishment of the commission is in response to the Carnell-Paterson review into failures at South Australia’s Oakden Older Persons Mental Health Service.

The review found the aged care regulatory framework does not adequately provide the assurance the community expects.

The new commission will start on January 1, 2019, bringing together the functions of the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency, the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner and the aged care regulatory functions of the Health Department.

The reforms include development options for a serious incident response scheme to ensure the right systems are in place to identify an incident and prevent it from happening again.

Ottrey Homes chief executive Tracey Gemmill said the most frustrating issue providers faced was the requirement to report and provide information to numerous regulatory bodies.

‘‘A ‘one-stop regulatory shop’ will improve information sharing across existing government agencies, minimise red tape and enable a more efficient regulatory system,’’ she said.

‘‘The newly-established Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission would also greater protect consumers due to more timely identification of homes at risk.

‘‘Under the current system there can be significant delays once an issue is identified either during a visit from the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency or after a complaint has been received about an aged care home by the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner.

‘‘People who have lived and made valuable contributions to their local community for their entire lives want to stay there. This means that, often, there is no real choice in aged care providers.

‘‘It is therefore imperative that, as approved providers, we accept the challenge to remain contemporary and to continuously review our service and how we could do things better to reduce the chance of a serious complaint or customer dissatisfaction.’’

Ms Gemmill agreed a public rating system could be beneficial to help in decision-making when choosing an aged care provider, but said it needed to be fair for the consumer and the provider.

‘‘The decision to put your mum or dad into aged care is not an easy one and can be very emotionally charged,’’ she said.

‘‘The public need to feel comfortable that if they make a complaint, there is a fair and balanced review of the circumstances that gave them cause to make the complaint, and that the independent umpire has access to all the relevant information.

‘‘However, there is a risk that a rating system for public reporting of aged care providers’ performance could be driven by ill-informed complainants.’’

Federal Member for Murray Damian Drum welcomed the reforms and said they would bring much-needed reassurance.

‘‘When I’m travelling around the electorate speaking to families with loved ones in aged care ... the clear majority are concerned their local aged care facility is delivering the best possible care to their loved ones,’’ he said.