As the second Adelaide hearing came to a close, those directly involved and those viewing from the sidelines were left experiencing a mixture of emotions from frustration, concern, desperation and surprisingly a little glimpse of hope.
Whilst the initial Adelaide hearing focused on Residential Care, the second focused on Home Care, My Aged Care, becoming a Home Care Provider and the Quality Review process. Many within the industry felt the initial Adelaide hearing was extremely intensive and the sector as a whole is feeling tired, however no stone was left unturned when it came to the Home Care hearing.
Over the course of the five (5) days, seven (7) participants/family members of participants provided evidence of their direct experience receiving Home Care, waiting for their approved packages and some of the pressures felt when attempting to choose a provider.
It continues to be concerning for the Australian public to hear of wait lists in excess of 12 months for much needed care, or even worse, people passing away before their package can be allocated.
With the Federal Budget being announced in the midst of the Royal Commission, aged care advocate organisations and supports are imploring the Government to hear the pleas of the 120,000-elderly waiting for their allocated package of care.
Representatives from the Department also provided evidence on the current systems surrounding provider applications and ongoing compliance.
Concerns were raised in relation to consulting companies not only writing applications on behalf of businesses, but also charging exuberant amounts to support businesses once sanctions have been imposed. One business who had been deemed non-compliant and had a sanction imposed paid in excess of $120,000 to a consulting firm to produce policies and procedures and perform required administrative tasks.
The Commissioners asked what many of us were thinking; what processes are in place to ensure applying businesses are appropriate if only 7 months in to their approval they are deemed as non-compliant?
Whilst Amergin have taken pride in supporting the highest quality of businesses as they complete their own application forms, we too question the workload of the assessing officers, the training (or lack of) they receive to understand the legislation and requirements of a home care provider, and the lack of support given to new providers when first starting out.
Some of the more positive and poignant statements that were made over the week however were from the four (4) Personal Care Workers who provided evidence. Whilst they raised concerns about their wages, training and risk management; they were able to articulate to the Commissioner how much they value their work and the genuine reasons why they want to make their clients lives better. The evidence provided insight in to the importance of an often underpaid and underappreciated group of staff within aged care organisations and left a glimmer of hope in us all.
Advice for providers moving forward
As each hearing draws to a close do not be mistaken for thinking you can breathe a sigh of relief just yet. There is benefit in continuously reviewing your submission in an objective way to look for any areas that may be of concern to the Royal Commission and commence preparing for it now.
Prepare a response in advance if you feel historic compliance issues may be revisited regardless of their severity/significance, and don’t be afraid to take a fresh look at your organisation as a whole… a critical look.
The next hearings are set for 6 May 2019 and will run for two weeks in Sydney. They will focus on residential care, and in particular the needs of people living with dementia.
For the full interview transcripts and witness details, visit the Departments Royal Commission website.