Aged Care: Meet the family!

Update: 23 - 25 Aug 2013:
Whilst government have largely ignored calls for transparency, accountability, and concerns over the conflicting relationships overseeing aged care regulation in Australia, explosive revelations in media were made by family members:

ABC Lateline - 23 Aug 2013:
Aged Care Accreditation In the Spotlight (Margot O'Neill)
Tonight a former senior victorian public servant whose mother died recently in a nursing home speaks out against a system he says is failing Australia's most vulnerable elderly. And lawyers believe families might be able to sue the Commonwealth for not safeguarding adequate standards of care in nursing homes and some families are pushing for a class action."

The Age - 25 Aug 2013: Call to set up independent aged-care watchdog (John Elder)
The Aged Care Complaints Scheme is putting paperwork ahead of residents' wellbeing, say advocacy groups. They say it lacks accountability and transparency and is beset by a conflict of interest, and want it to be independent of the federal government. The call comes as a Melbourne law firm has begun investigating a class action against the federal Department of Health and Ageing scheme. National Seniors, Aged Care Crisis and the Combined Pensioners & Superannuants Association of NSW say the arrangements are a conflict of interest because the government provides subsidised funding to residential aged-care facilities, runs the accreditation that enables facilities to gain funding, then acts as the watchdog.

The Age - 25 Aug 2013:
Care crusade (John Elder)
Many who have been let down by the aged care system are being further frustrated by the official channels of complaint. 'My mother was severely damaged on the watch of those with a duty to her. They failed' ... said Adrian Nye.

Lawyers believe families might be able to sue the Commonwealth for not safeguarding adequate standards of care in nursing homes, with some families pushing for a class action. Please contact us to register your interest.

Meet the Minister, DOHA and their offspring…keeping it all in the family!

Aged Care Crisis (ACC) wonders if many people realise the interconnections between the various policy, educative and regulatory arms of aged care and the full implications of such cosy relationships.

mtf-tree.jpg ...

DOHA: The Department of Health and Ageing has a multi-faceted role which includes the funding and regulation of aged care, providing policy advice to government as well as applying sanctions to those aged-care homes which are not compliant with standards.

ACCS (Update): 2011/2012, the removal of the word "Investigation" from the title Aged Care Complaints [Investigation] Scheme provided consumers with the clarity they needed: a clear mandate that their complaints would never be the focus of an "investigation", allthough reportedly this was already the case – as many a complainant who endured the previous scheme can attest. Like it's predecessors, it is embedded in DOHA and managed by the Office of Aged Care Quality and Compliance (OACQC).

ACCC: The Aged Care Commissioner for Complaints can review decisions made by the CIS - but DOHA can and does often reject the Commissioner's recommendations. Therefore, the Commissioner's powers are illusionary.

ACSAA: The Aged Care Standards and Accreditation Agency, as it is currently structured, has two conflicting roles - a regulatory function and an educative function.

While it is beneficial to have a co-operative body assisting aged-care homes improve the quality of care provided, it is problematic when that body also performs a monitoring and assessing role and publishes the results of those assessments within the aged-care market place. Such a conflict of interest cannot be sustained and acts against the well-being of frail people in residential care.

ACC recommends the following:

1. That the accreditation and monitoring of aged-care homes is separate from the processes of education and oversight.

2. That the Complaints Investigation Scheme be a truly independent body.

Conflicts R Us?

The conflict of interest endemic in the DOHA has been noted by Professor Merrilyn Walton who chaired last year's Review of the Aged Care Complaints Investigation Scheme.

"... it's very difficult for the Department because it has so many conflicting interests ..."
Professor Merrilyn Walton

Similar concerns were also made last year on ABC Four Corners' program:

"... the independent Aged Care Commissioner, Rhonda Parker, found that half of the CIS decisions that came to her for review were flawed. She told (ABC) Four Corners the CIS often failed to give reasons for rejecting complaints, that investigative processes were often poor and complainants were denied natural justice.

But the department is not obliged to accept the commissioner's recommendations and frequently does not.

Professor Alan Pearson, a former panel chair in the old Complaints Resolution Scheme, told Four Corners the CIS was operating to protect the minister. "It's a deeply flawed system" ..."

The Commonwealth Ombudsman's submission to the CIS review stated:

"... If the Aged Care Commission is to be both truly independent and perceived as such emphasis must be given to those things that impact on independence.

Its resources should not be subject to Departmental control, it should have a clear direct line of reporting to the Minister and to the public and consideration should be given to whether it should pick up more of the CIS role …"
Commonwealth Ombudsman

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