Aged Care Update: Royal Commission

26 June 2019

The Sydney hearing of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety in May focused on people living with dementia in residential aged care facilities.  Witnesses gave evidence on a number of issues, including inadequate staffing ratios and the disconnect between decision makers and the people ‘at the coal face’ delivering care to vulnerable residents.

We are proud to report that Tasmania’s own Lucy O’Flaherty, CEO of Glenview Community Services, addressed the Commission on 14 May about what constitutes good practice for people living with dementia.  Ms O’Flaherty highlighted the importance of adequately supporting staff, stating that  “in terms of the right staff with the right skills and ongoing learning opportunities, these are really critical, and support for those staff given it is – it’s a hard job and I have utmost respect for those that are able to do the work and do it with compassion and integrity.”  She also emphasised the importance of leadership and accountability in the residential aged care sector:

“I think leadership is critical, and when I say that I mean leadership from the top and accountability… I think there is a difference when you have leaders who innately understand the work because of the nature of their own background, so not just having administrators [but] having people who have an appreciation of the complexity of the work and therefore the capacity to flex and change when things need to change.”

The Commission also heard from workers in residential aged care who explained the difficulties faced every day due to inadequate staffing.  Commissioner Briggs noted that “[w]e’ve heard arguments from the industry that it’s virtually impossible to specify staffing levels and staffing ratios” and asked one of the witnesses, ‘Elizabeth’, to give her opinion on what could be done.  Elizabeth directed the Commissioner’s attention to the research already undertaken by the ANMF regarding mandated ratios in aged care. More information on the ANMF Ratios in Aged Care campaign can be found here. She also stated that there is an urgent need to close the gap between those who manage the money in the aged care sector and those delivering care to vulnerable residents:

[I]t’s far too on the side of the bean counter and not enough on the side of care… [I]f something isn’t actually done to stop that, then these scenarios that you’ve given us are just going to keep repeating and repeating and repeating. And it’s there for the grace of God go I that, you know, it wasn’t you on that shift that missed ringing someone or doing something because you just didn’t have the time to see them.”

The Commissioners are required to provide an interim report by 31 October 2019, and a final report by 30 April 2020.  More information about the Royal Commission can be found here.