“There is no room for complacency”: Aged Care Commissioner warns CEOs and boards to be prepared for emergencies

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Janet Anderson also issued a clear message to management during her time in front of the Senate committee: you will be held responsible if your preparations for any outbreak or emergency are not up to scratch.

The Commissioner cited the self-assessment reports that were provided to residential care and home care providers at the start of the pandemic to judge their preparedness for COVID019.

Of the 2,638 responses, Ms Anderson says while many of the questions received a 90% or higher response, there was a discrepancy in some of the responses that put the Commission on alert.

For example, 99.3% said they had a plan in place to deal with outbreaks – but only 91.1% said their staff were aware of the plan.

The Commissioner said they wanted these responses to be just as high so that was a warning that some providers had plans, but hadn’t refreshed these with staff.

“Providers are routinely underestimating the impact that COVID-19 will have on their services,” she said.

Ms Anderson said they came across similar issues with providers’ emergency response plans during the recent bushfire crisis, for instance, that a provider would have a plan, but when they were affected by the fires, they had not considered how difficult it would be to evacuate 14 bedbound residents 20km away.

“It’s a salutary lesson for us as a regulator but it’s easily as important for providers,” she said.

“There is no room for complacency here and a tick box approach… it will show up in their capacity to respond.”