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As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, presenting ongoing risks to older Australians receiving aged care, the Commission is constantly reassessing its regulatory response to ensure it remains fit for purpose.

In the last few months, the Commission has further refined regulatory processes and is closely monitoring providers to hold them to account for the delivery of safe, quality care to aged care consumers during the current Omicron wave.

Aged care providers have no excuse if they are unprepared for a COVID-19 outbreak. They are inviting the regulator to take action.

This is the clear message from Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner, Janet Anderson as 2021 draws to a close with rising rates of COVID-19 community transmission being seen in many parts of the country.

I write regarding articles on the aged care Serious Incident Response Scheme (SIRS) syndicated across a number of News Corporation publications on 7 November 2021.

Serious incidents affecting aged care residents have been reportable under legislated requirements introduced from April this year.

It is disappointing that misleading information on the SIRS has been included in articles appearing today in your publications. Such reports undermine the community’s trust and confidence in the major reforms being implemented to drive improved safety and quality in aged care.

Initial data from the new Serious Incident Response Scheme (SIRS) indicates that aged care residential providers have been working hard to implement and fine-tune their approach to incident management.

In the first six weeks of the scheme (from 1 April to 12 May 2021), the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission has received 1,876 notifications which fall into the Priority 1 reportable incident category - that is, an incident in a residential aged care service that has caused, or could potentially have caused physical or psychological injury to a consumer, requiring medical or psychological treatment.

All residential aged care services are reminded to be on high alert following COVID-19 cases linked to aged care services in the State.

The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission is actively partnering with the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre (VACRC), which brings together Australian and Victorian Government agencies, to manage the response to COVID-19 in Victorian residential aged care services.

Action is required now by aged care providers to get ready for the introduction of new requirements relating to their management and reporting of incidents affecting consumers in residential aged care.

The Serious Incident Response Scheme (SIRS), which commences on 1 April 2021, will require aged care providers to have an effective incident management system, and to report a range of serious incidents to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission within 24 hours of becoming aware of them.

The Commission has new powers to hold providers to account in relation to their response to incidents, including actions they take to prevent and reduce the risk and impact of serious incidents on consumers.

The report powerfully conveys the hopes and expectations of all Australians when it comes to how we want to live, as we grow older and as we become more reliant on others for our care and support needs.  The report also paints a vivid picture of an Australian aged care system that, by focusing on meeting individual needs, would regain the community’s trust and confidence.

Titled ‘Care, Dignity and Respect’, the Royal Commission’s final report sends a strong message to everyone about the importance of treating all older Australians with dignity and respect; as individuals with their own identity, goals, values and preferences.

The Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Minister Greg Hunt and Minister Richard Colbeck have issued a joint statement reaffirming the Australian Government’s commitment to transform the aged care system, using the Royal Commission’s final report as both motivation and impetus to pursue the comprehensive reforms required.

The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (the Commission) has recently published performance reports resulting from surprise site visits at Regis Nedlands residential aged care service in Western Australia.

On 20 January 2021, after conducting an unannounced assessment contact, the Commission determined that an immediate and severe risk to the health, safety or well-being of residents at the service.  On 23 January 2021, a ‘Notice to Impose Sanctions and Notice of Requirement to Agree to Certain Matters’ was issued to the approved aged care provider, Regis Aged Care Pty Ltd.

This visit was prompted by reports of incidents that had adversely impacted residents.  The notice was issued based on the findings of non-compliance identified during this assessment contact. 

A meeting was held on 16 February with Lithgow Aged Care residents and family members in order to provide them with information and answer any questions about the Commission’s decision not to re-accredit the residential service.  The meeting was convened by the Board Chair of Lithgow Aged Care and included senior representatives from the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission and the Australian Government Department of Health.

The Commission recently made a decision not to re-accredit the Lithgow Aged Care residential service because it has failed to meet the Aged Care Quality Standards, which detail the requirements for safe and quality care.

The approved provider has not met the Aged Care Quality Standards since August 2019 and despite advice and support from the Commission, the provider has not demonstrated the capacity to rectify the non-compliances. 

The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission is an independent statutory authority that accredits, monitors, and assesses Commonwealth funded residential aged care services to ensure that they comply with legislated quality and prudential standards.

The Commission has recently made a decision not to re-accredit the Lithgow Aged Care residential service because it has failed to meet Aged Care Quality Standards and could not demonstrate the capacity to rectify the non-compliances identified by the Commission.

In December 2020, the Commission identified that there was an immediate and severe risk to the safety, health, or well-being of residents at Lithgow Aged Care and imposed a sanction on the approved provider.  The sanction required the appointment of an independent advisor for six months, and provision of relevant training for all staff at the service.

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