Upset senior citizen.
Upset senior citizen.

Dramatic spike in aged care complaints

JUST six months into the job, the new Aged Care Complaints Commissioner has reported an 11% rise in the number of complaints about the industry.

According to the commissioner's annual report, the office has been inundated with inquiries, with a total of 5233 people contacting the commissioner between January 1 and June 30, 2016.

Of those, 1635 matters (or 31%) were regarding issues that were outside of the commissioner's scope, including complaints about retirement villages regulated by the states.

But 2153 formal complaints were lodged, representing an 11% hike in the number of complaints lodged during the same period in 2015 - when the Department of Health was responsible for their handling - up from 1938 to 2153 complaints.

The majority of complaints were from concerned family of people receiving care, accounting for 1272 (59%) of complaints. A further 347 (16%) were from care recipients themselves.

The remaining 534 (25%) were from anonymous complainants, other interested people (such as a friend of the care recipient) and referrals from other agencies.

The vast majority of complaints were about residential aged care services, accounting for 1746 complaints (81%), while just 276 (13%) were about home care packages, 114 (5%) were about the Commonwealth Home Support Programme and 17 (1%) were about flexible and community care services.

However, complaints about home care packages and the Commonwealth Home Support Programme accounted for 18% of all complaints in 2016, up from 12% in the corresponding period in 2015.

The most common issues complained about for residential care related to clinical care (267), the administration of medication (200), continence management (178) and the choice and dignity of the person receiving care (163).

For home care services, the most commonly complained about issues related to fees (94) and other financial concerns (55), and communication between the service and person receiving care (66).

Commonwealth Home Support Programme complaint issues were very similar, with fees (14), lack of communication (13) and other financial concerns (eight) being the most common.

The most common complaint issues for flexible care services were about the conduct or behaviour of service staff (four), infections and infection control (three) and lack of training, skills and adequate qualifications of the staff (three).

The commissioner's staff made 49 site visits as part of their investigations, of which 14 were unannounced.

The Commissioner made 231 referrals to external organisations and, of these, 123 were to the Aged Care Quality Agency, which is the independent body responsible for supervising government-funded aged care homes.

Most of these referrals related to the training and qualifications of staff, the quality of clinical care, quality of food, infection control, administration of medication and continence management.

A further 18 matters were referred to the Secretary of the Department and the remaining 90 were to other external agencies, such as state and territory governments, advocacy organisations and coroners.

Issues and concerns most commonly referred to the Aged Care Quality Agency included the number and qualifications and training of personnel, quality of clinical care, quality of food, infection control, administration of medication and continence management.

Responding to the report, Minister for Health and Aged Care Sussan Ley said: "The report shows that people - consumers, family, carers and loved ones - are speaking up when it comes to concerns about their aged care services and this is a good thing."

Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care Ken Wyatt added: "It's good to see that the overall percentage of complaints relating to aged care remains low, and a testament to the Commissioner's team that the majority of complaints are finalised in under 30 days."

Number of complaints by state (January 1 to June 30, 2016):

* Victoria: 650

* New South Wales: 596

* Queensland: 401

* South Australia: 183

* Western Australia: 99

* Tasmania: 68

* Australian Capital Territory: 31

* Northern Territory: 15

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