Twenty Victorian aged care providers have been found to be non-compliant with standards under the Aged Care Act since July.
The aged care quality and safety commission issued the homes with notices to agree, which set out actions to improve their standards.
The commission warned the homes they risk losing their approval to provide government-subsidised aged care if they don’t meet the standards by a deadline.
Earlier on Monday, the federal aged care minister Richard Colbeck told parliament that there was a period when the commission ceased unannounced visits to check on the compliance of aged care homes, “based on medical advice”. “Those have now recommenced,” Colbeck said. “And we have put in place additional measures.”
Covid-19 has wreaked havoc on Victoria’s aged care sector since the second wave of the virus hit around July. Baptcare Wyndham Lodge, Epping Gardens, Cumberland Manor, Menarock Life Essendon, Estia Health Heidelberg and Florence Aged Care are among the 20 providers found to be delivering ‘inadequate’ service by the commission since July.
The homes were given a number of orders, including not to admit any new care recipients until it could be demonstrated “to the commission’s satisfaction the serious risk to care recipients at the service has been addressed”.
Many of the homes were ordered to “appoint, at its expense, an eligible adviser to assist it to comply with its responsibilities”.
“The adviser must be appointed until the Service is declared free of all positive cases of Covid-19 and the delegate is satisfied that the Service is compliant with the Aged Care Quality Standards,” the notices said.
In most cases, sanctions on the homes expire in January 2021.
There have been 381 aged care deaths in Victoria linked with the Covid-19 crisis, but of those, just five have been referred to the coroner, all linked to the St Basil’s aged care home. However, Guardian Australia has heard of other cases nurses believe should have been referred to the coroner, but were not.
Victoria police are currently compiling a brief of evidence for the state coroner. A spokeswoman for the coroner said the scope of the inquiry and cases to be investigated as part of the coroner’s review of aged care deaths will be determined following receipt of this brief from police.
However, more deaths may ultimately form part of the coroner’s inquiry. A coroner can continue to seek evidence until they are satisfied that they have all the information necessary to complete a robust investigation, and can monitor and review reports to identify other potentially relevant deaths.
Prof Joseph Ibrahim, the head of the health, law and ageing research unit at Monash University, said he would support a royal commission into aged care deaths linked with Covid-19, saying the scope of current inquiries did not extend far enough to look into this in detail.
But more urgently, he believes a federal Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) inquiry is needed.
“Because that’s the only way to follow the money and see how it is being spent, and whether it is being spent where it is needed, and how it is funnelled to and between state and federal parties,” Ibrahim said.
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Source: The Guardian