AGED CARE ABUSE: Peak bodies call for calm amidst storm

TWO peak bodies have reiterated that quality in aged care is continuously assessed, following media reports that call into question the quality of care across Queensland facilities.

The comments come on the heels of a "secret audit" of the state's facilities, released by Queensland Nurses and Midwives' Union (QNMU). Nurses who work for the QNMU travelled the state to visit privately-run residential aged care facilities, meet with their colleagues and report the findings.

The union said of the facilities audited - 70 in 30 federal Queensland electorates - 80 per cent were dangerously understaffed.

Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA) and Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) said the subsequent media reports focus on quality concerns in a small number of Queensland residential aged care facilities and highlighted that 10 the state's 445 facilities are currently responding to the Accreditation Agency about improving a particular aspect of their service.

ACSA chief executive Pat Sparrow stressed that all residential aged care facilities, including those in Queensland, are regularly audited against the aged care quality standards and are required to address any issues identified.

"Like any human service, there are isolated incidents where errors and oversights occur and the community should be assured that the regulatory processes function to identify and remedy those," Sparrow said.

Sean Rooney, chief executive of LASA, said Australia has a good aged care system and added a good system can always get better.

Following the QNMU report's release, the union's secretary Beth Mohle said 79 per cent of aged care staff surveyed said their facilities were dangerously understaffed. Mohle said: "Behind closed doors, in almost every city and town, registered nurses are being left to look after up to 200 residents at a time. While nurses and other staff are doing their best, they simply can't meet the demand for care under those circumstances."

She added findings also revealed that unqualified staff are administering potentially life-threatening medications, and that residents are falling and not being checked and regularly experience malnutrition and dehydration.

QNMU wants to see nurse to resident ratios and the public reporting of staff numbers and resident outcomes for each individual facility made law. "Queensland and Australian nurses and midwives are taking this matter into their own hands and will not rest until Australian laws are introduced to protect the elderly - and those who care for them," Mohle said.

ACSA and LASA said providers ensure their facilities are staffed according to flexible staffing models that can deliver the right level of staffing, and a skills mix appropriate to regularly changing occupancy levels and the needs of residents at each individual site.

The peaks added that they remain prepared to work with the Government, unions and other stakeholders to ensure the community has trust and confidence in the care provided. "Ultimately, service providers, government and the wider community all share a desire for a high-performing aged care sector."

This article first appeared in Aged Care Insite

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