Horror aged care homes to be fined for cover-ups
New fines for cover-ups of aged care abuse will hit nursing homes this year, after thousands of elderly Australians were bashed or sexually assaulted in 2020.
Shocking new government data reveals 103 "reportable assaults'' every week, with 4034 cases of physical and sexual assaults notified to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (ACQSC) between January and September last year.
Now the aged care watchdog will be granted tough new powers to punish aged care providers for failing to keep frail residents safe, through a new Serious Incident Response Scheme (SIRS).
Aged care managers or staff who bully whistle blowers could be fined up to $111,000 - and forced to pay them compensation for "victimisation''.
Nursing homes must report all cases - and even suspicions - of care workers yelling, name-calling, stealing from residents or failing to help them eat.
The tough new laws, to be debated when federal parliament resumes next month, would widen the definition of a "serious incident'' that must be reported to the ACQSC from April 1.
Currently, aged care homes only need to report "unlawful sexual contact" and "unreasonable use of force'' - with 15 cases reported every day.
They don't have to report other types of harm, or assaults by elderly residents with dementia or mental illness.
The loophole will close in April, with a wider definition of "serious incident'' to include yelling at residents, stealing or leaving wounds untreated.
Nursing homes and staff will risk fines for failing to report every "allegation, suspicion or witness account'' of abuse and neglect to the ACQSC, to combat cover-ups of abuse.
Staff who refuse to hand over documents could be fined up to $6660.
For the first time, nursing homes will be forced to notify the ACQSC of "unexpected deaths'' from falls or untreated bed sores.
Aged care providers will also need to dob in staff who steal from residents, or coerce them to change their will to leave them money.
Psychological or emotional abuse must also be reported to the aged care watchdog - including yelling, name calling, ignoring a resident, making "threatening gestures" or punishing a resident by refusing access to care or services.
The ACQSC has told aged care homes they will have to report all cases of neglect - including untreated wounds, withholding personal care or failing to help residents eat meals.
Any hitting, pushing, shoving or rough handling of residents must be reported.
Rape and sexual assaults are already reported, but the new rules will require stalking and "sexual threats'' to also be flagged with the aged care watchdog.
Doping residents with sedatives will also be outlawed as a form of "chemical restraint without prior consent''.
And physical restraints will only be permitted in "emergency situations''.
Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner Janet Anderson said ACQSC had fielded 4867 reports of alleged unreasonable use of force and 816 allegations of unlawful sexual contact against nursing home residents in 2019/20.
She said the allegations were "matters for police''.
Ms Anderson said the new reporting requirements would help nursing homes minimise the risk of harm, and "respond promptly and effectively'' to serious incidents.
"The Commission will also use the SIRS reports as intelligence to inform our regulatory decisions and actions in relation to particular providers,'' she told News Corp.
To report abuse: www.agecarequality.gov.au
1800 951 822
Originally published as Horror aged care homes to be fined for cover-ups