Last Friday (23rd) Ms Lynelle Briggs AO and the Hon. Justice Joseph McGrath, the appointed Commissioners for the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, issued their first letter to approved providers.
It announced they will hold a preliminary hearing in Adelaide next month – December.
It then stated the Commission is keen to engage with providers to gather information at the beginning which “may inform our direction and assist our deliberations”.
“We are, therefore, writing to aged care approved providers to invite an early written submission to the Commission in relation to each aged care service or outlet”.
“In addition to that, we have a number of specific questions we would like you to address, which are attached to this letter. Where you operate more than one service or outlet, we would be assisted if each of your services or outlets responded individually to each of the attached questions”.
“Your response should be comprehensive, but should not exceed 50 pages for each service or outlet”.
A deadline in early January is set for responses.
Three detailed questions followed requiring the operator to identify all events for each location and service since July 2013, led by:
(a) Since 1 July 2013, have there been any occasions when your service or outlet has provided substandard care, including mistreatment and all forms of abuse?
(b) If so, in relation to each such occasion:
(i) When did it happen?
(ii) What (in general terms) was the nature of the occasion of substandard care?
(iii) What action did your service or outlet take in response?
(iv) Was the substandard care the result of a systemic failure?
(iv) If so:
Had that systemic failure previously been reported and was it an issue during the most recent accreditation or quality review process before the occasion of substandard care?
Did the substandard care result in a notice of non-compliance or the imposition of sanctions?
A summary table then is to be added.
Questions two and three are equally specific.
The workload to respond adequately will be significant and potentially damning. The question is how many operators will respond to the invitation.
The Royal Commission is a once in a generation opportunity to design an improved solution.
“We are keen to hear your views about where the Royal Commission might focus its attention – in particular, what areas you think need to be changed and how they might be changed”.
Questions 6, 7 and 8 ask for contributions. One assumes you have to answer questions 1 to 5 to be eligible to make these later contributions.
As one informed observer said to us, this is not a time for complacency by the CEOs and boards of operators. The public is also contributing information to the Commission so there is no hiding.
Not responding seriously and urgently to this letter will have severe negative ramifications on the individual operators and the sector.
The question to be asked is: has the aged care sector learned from the banking Royal Commission?