The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety will have the power to issue notices requiring individual to give information or a statement in writing – the first Royal Commission to have this power – and a sign of what is potentially to come as the first hearing led by Commissioners Lynelle Briggs and Richard Tracey got underway in Adelaide last Friday.
The hearing also revealed only 83 of the Top 100 aged care providers asked to make early submissions on cases of substandard care at their facilities since 2013 have done so at this point.
The deadline for the information was 7 January 2018 – the remaining 1,900 providers have until 8 February 2019.
Senior counsel assisting the inquiry Peter Gray QC – one of two QCs assisting the Commission –says that over 300 public submissions have also been received since these opened on 24 December 2018 – 81% relating to residential aged care.
“The most common concerns are about substandard or unsafe care and staffing issues, including staff ratios, with about 54 per cent and 59 per cent of the submissions raising these issues respectively,” he said.
As expected, there was a solemn tone to the proceedings.
“There has been a rising torrent of concern that the aged care system is faltering in certain areas of safety and quality and that it may not be fit for purpose,” Commissioner Briggs said.
However, there was an emphasis on looking forward.
“A key feature of our task is a focus on the future and what the aged care system in Australia should be: a world-class caring system in which those receiving aged care and their loved ones can have confidence.”
They will need to work fast. The next hearing where witnesses will give evidence is scheduled for 11 February 2019, while the Commission’s interim report is due by 31 October 2019 with the final report to be completed by April 2020.