Prior to the establishment of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, concerns were raised about substandard levels of care and instances of abuse related to a select number of providers and facilities across the country.
However, despite the spotlight now being firmly being shone on the issue of aged care quality and safety, new government data has revealed that the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency did not carry out a single unannounced spot check at a nursing home after 5pm over the past 18 months.
The facts came to light in the answer to a question put to the Department of Health during a Senate Estimates hearing in October last year.
Queensland Senator Murray Watt asked: “What I’m trying to establish is how regular are the after-hours unannounced visits. Is it a weekly thing or monthly or a couple of times a year?”
A response to the question, which was taken on notice at the time, was delivered earlier this month and stated: “The Australian Aged Care Quality Agency (Quality Agency) has conducted one unannounced activity that commenced before 9am in the 2018/19 financial year, as at 30 November 2018. There have been no unannounced activities that have commenced after 5pm.
“In the 2017/18 financial year, the Quality Agency conducted nine unannounced activities that started before 9am. There were no unannounced activities that commenced after 5pm.”
Another government response also revealed that, over a six month period to November 2018, the government agency carried out no unannounced visits on public holidays. Just one took place on a public holiday during the 2017/18 financial year.
Labor member for Franklin Julie Collins slammed the Coalition over the “damning revelation” on social media. She said: “Extraordinary – the Liberal Government did not ensure one unannounced visit to monitor nursing home standards occurred after hours prior to the Royal Commission into aged care being called.
“This is despite significant media reporting highlighting the unacceptable treatment of older Australians after hours in residential aged care. The damning revelation underscores just how much the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government has taken its eye off the ball when it comes to the care of older Australians.”
Earlier this month, Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Ken Wyatt launched the independent Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission – a new watchdog for the aged care sector that will crack down on abuse and neglect.
The new commission is led by Commissioner Janet Anderson and replaced the former Australian Aged Care Quality Agency and Aged Care Complaints Commissioner. A one-stop quality and safety website was also launched, as well as a single new contact for aged care concerns and queries.
“With the motto ‘Engage, Empower and Safeguard’, the Commission flags a new beginning for aged care quality and safety,” Wyatt said in a statement at the time. “The Commission will also be empowered by the new aged care Charter of Rights and will implement the new, stronger set of Aged Care Quality Standards, the first upgrade of standards in 20 years.”