The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety has shone a light on areas of concern within the sector in recent months, from shocking instances of abuse to inadequate staffing. However new research has now claimed that facilities across Australia are also lacking when it comes to providing a high standard of medical care to senior residents.
Researchers from Monash University identified a worrying trend, according to research published in the Medical Journal of Australia, which showed that aged care providers are “uncoupling” from healthcare, despite many residents having complex and serious health requirements.
The study found that residential aged care facilities across the country seem to be moving away from a “medically dominated model of care provision”, which researchers said does not satisfy the rights of care home residents to be able to access fair and adequate health care.
It also highlighted several areas where poor clinical care is evident, including poor diabetes management, the overprescribing of antipsychotic drugs, poor oral care and under-treatment of chronic respiratory problems. The study also found that aged care facilities were lacking when it came to serious injuries and preventable deaths from the likes of falls, choking, suicide and resident assault.
“The Royal Commission needs to take a transformative approach that includes tightly coupling RACFs (residential aged care facilities) to health care,” Professor Ibrahim, from Monash University’s Department of Forensic Medicine, wrote.
“Addressing the egregious human rights breaches and developing strategies to reduce and eliminate harm from abuse, mistreatment and neglect are crucial.”
He added: “Optimal health care is an essential requirement for maintaining and improving the lives of older people and this should be one of the core roles of RACFs.”
Meanwhile, the research called for clear standards to be set in terms of medical care and identifying who will be responsible for ensuring those standards are met, adding that accountability for providing high-quality care is currently unclear in aged care.
Ibrahim, Head of the Health Law and Ageing Unit, added that while residential aged care homes were distancing themselves from medical-centric care, acute care hospitals and state health departments are actually doing the opposite and focusing on medical care.
The Aged Care Royal Commission was announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison in October last year and is currently ongoing.
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