The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission’s Sector Performance Report for July-September 2020 highlights the Commission’s focus on containing COVID-19 outbreaks in aged care facilities, including by stepping up infection control monitoring spot checks.
The Commission prioritised these spot checks to assess whether providers of residential aged care services had taken all necessary steps to ensure that their staff were trained and proficient in infection control practices and procedures, and were appropriately using personal protective equipment (PPE), including gloves, face masks, face shields and gowns.
The Sector Performance Report records 4,688 Infection Control Monitoring activities with residential aged care services (both onsite and offsite) between July and September 2020. This important work continues, with the Commission undertaking around 100 spot checks each week at residential aged care services across the country.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Commission has used the full range of its regulatory powers to help ensure that aged care providers are doing everything possible to keep consumers safe and to deliver quality care and services consistent with the Aged Care Quality Standards.
The Commissioner, Janet Anderson, said the first quarterly Performance Report for 2020-21 reflected the specific and targeted attention that the Commission had given to dealing with key issues and risks arising from the pandemic. This includes holding providers to account for their efforts to minimise infections risks, and to respond effectively if they experienced an outbreak in their residential aged care services.
The Performance Report records that the Commission issued 29 Notices of Requirement to Agree to Certain Matters (NTAs) in July-September 2020, and two sanctions. This compares with three NTAs issued in the April-June 2020 quarter and two in the January-March 2020 quarter.
Victoria and New South Wales are the two states that have experienced the highest COVID-19 prevalence rates to date, both in their general population and in their residential aged care services. This is also reflected in the Sector Performance data with 18 NTAs issued in Victoria and nine in New South Wales out of the total of 29 NTAs.
Where immediate and severe risk to consumers is identified in the context of a COVID-19 outbreak in a residential aged care service, the Commission will issue a NTA requiring the provider to immediately take action to manage risks associated with the outbreak.
During the three months from July to September 2020, there were 1,859 complaints, comprising 4,181 issues, received about residential aged care services compared with 2,119 in April-June 2020 and 1,414 in January-March 2020.
From July to September 2020, there were 406 issues raised about infectious disease control issues, 241 about the number of personnel, 237 about consultation with family members and representatives, 186 about medication management and 181 about poor communication.
Prior to COVID-19, medication management had been the most frequently raised issue of complaint.
The Commission undertook a record number of 5,500 assessment contacts of residential aged care services during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. From July to September there were 5,577 assessment contact activities with 1,005 of these involving an on-site visit.
Ms Anderson said: “The Commission, like the rest of Australia, found new ways of working to undertake its critical role of conducting safety and quality checks during the pandemic. This led to the Commission undertaking a record number of assessment contacts of residential care providers.
“COVID-19 placed unprecedented demands on the aged care sector, posing a particular and very serious threat to elderly and vulnerable Australians.
“The Commission as the national aged care regulator has a vital role to play in enforcing the quality and safety standards in the Aged Care Act 1997 and by that means, helping to protect and promote the safety, health, wellbeing and quality of life of people receiving aged care.
“We are committed to increasing transparency of information to assess our performance and regulatory record, and the sector’s performance, through appropriate public reporting.”
If anyone has a concern about a residential aged care service, complaints can be made via the Commission’s website www.agedcarequality.gov.au or by calling 1800 951 822.
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