Red News Readers,
It should be no surprise to anyone that complaints are rising what with mandatory reporting of elder abuse and the and minimum cost care provided by aged care providers. Many nursing homes are now run largely by non nursing trained carers who may have minimal training the care of the aged and their needs and medications. Working for a phone triage company we get plenty of calls from aged care workers in aged care facilites that range from what would be a simple problem for a trained nurse to solve eg how to stop a patient bleeding from a skin tear, medication errors, and emergencies where the aged care workers are instructed to call Heatlh Direct first before calling other agencies. There is no nurse on site that they can call for assistance. Lord knows what goes on in the facilities where the aged care workers do not call for assistance,
Our nursing homes in turmoil
Rachel Browne, Sun Herald.
May 31, 2009
COMPLAINTS about nursing homes have tripled in a year, with authorities investigating serious cases of physical and sexual abuse as well as referring more than 30 deaths to the coroner.
The Department of Health and Ageing's Complaints Investigation Scheme (CIS) looked at almost 7500 complaints in 2007-08.
Of these, 1770 matters were referred to the Aged Care Standards and Accreditation Agency for further investigation, 62 to nurses registration boards, 53 to the police, 33 to the coroner, 27 to the Health Care Complaints Commission and 13 to the Medical Practitioners Board.
Of the referrals to the coroner, seven occurred in NSW, 22 in Victoria, one in Queensland and three in South Australia.
This marks a significant increase from 2006-07, when the CIS and its predecessor, the Aged Care Complaints Resolution Scheme, examined 2399 complaints. In 2005-06, the scheme received 1260 complaints.
However, aged care lobby groups say the complaints handling system for Australia's 2830 nursing homes is seriously flawed and the public is denied information about the outcomes of investigations.
The Department of Health and Ageing will identify nursing homes that have been the subject of an official sanction or a notice of non-compliance.
The name-and-shame list will appear on a Department of Health and Ageing website from July 1.
But Aged Care Crisis Team spokeswoman Lynda Saltarelli said the information would be more than a year old and would relate only to a small number of homes subject to complaints.
"We would like to see a transparent system where a consumer can look at a nursing home and find out the type of ownership and structure; whether it has been the subject of failing standards as well as a complaint; the nature of the complaint; and what the provider did to address that complaint," Ms Saltarelli said.
There are 175,000 people in aged care facilities across the nation, a figure growing by 5000 a year.
Taxpayers subsidise the care of residents by an average of $45,000 a year, with residents contributing an average of $20,000 a year for care.
Over the next four years, the Government will invest more than $41.6 billion into aged and community care. During 2007-08 the Aged Care Standards and Accreditation Agency conducted 5244 visits to homes, with 3105 visits unannounced. In this same period the Department of Health and Ageing undertook 3127 visits to homes, of which 1145 were unannounced.
The policy co-ordinator of the Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association of NSW, Charmaine Crowe, said the increase in complaints revealed that people were more likely to come forward, but many complainants found their cases were not investigated thoroughly. "I know of one case which went to the department and was referred back to the nursing home. That complaint was very serious in nature. It should not have been referred back to the nursing home. That is simply unacceptable."
Elder Abuse Prevention Association founder Lillian Jeter said many cases of abuse or neglect were still going unreported.
Under changes to the law in 2007, it is mandatory for nursing home staff to report serious cases of physical or sexual abuse.
In 2007-08, there were 725 notifications of alleged unreasonable use of force and 200 allegations of alleged unlawful sexual contact.
However, nursing home staff are not obliged to report matters such as neglect, financial exploitation or psychological abuse.
"I think those three categories should come under mandatory reporting," Ms Jeter said.
"If you catch these so-called lesser types of incidents early, if you catch the neglect, the pyschological abuse or the financial exploitation, you are more likely to prevent the more serious types of incidents from happening. There needs to be a zero-tolerance policy."
The Aged Care Crisis Team is also calling for mandatory staff-to-resident ratios. "Hospitals, schools and child-care centres must adhere to set staffing levels. Why are facilities which provide end-of-life care exempt?" Ms Saltarelli said.
"We have heard of multiple instances of under-staffing. For example, one staff member to 80 residents at night."
Up to half aged care residents suffer from malnutrition, a senior dietitian said at a conference in Darwin yesterday.
Dr Merrilyn Banks from the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital said that while nursing home residents were usually given nutritious food, many of them were unable to eat it if they were on heavy pain medication, which can reduce their appetite or make them drowsy.
Aged Care Association Australia chief executive Rod Young, whose organisation represents private sector and not-for-profit nursing homes, said providers were doing the best with limited resources.
"We provide approximately 80 million days of care by nearly 240,000 staff ranging from personal care workers to registered nurses. So a very complex service is being offered by a great range of staff in a variety of settings and often to the most frail, vulnerable and complex-care recipients in the country."
He said the number of complaints were small in comparison to the number of people either in aged care or with a friend or relative in aged care. "Throw into the mix a further 500,000 people who are the family, friends, legal representatives, volunteers and visitors, many of whom will have their own views on how care should be delivered and many of whom have to struggle with the declining health of a loved one … and it is a volatile mix of emotions," he said.
A spokeswoman for the Minister for Ageing, Justine Elliot, said the increase in complaints was due to increased compliance measures and increased awareness of the Complaints Investigation Scheme.