Friday, June 21, 2024

Royal Commission to review care response

Victoria is battling 804 active COVID-19 cases across its aged care facilities tonight, with the total number of infections in the state now closing in on a milestone 10,000 cases.

With nine new deaths reported since yesterday and seven linked to aged care facilities, the sector is set to come under further scrutiny with the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety announcing today that a hearing dedicated to the responses by the sector to COVID-19 and the effect of those responses on aged care services will take place from 10-13 August.

In a statement, the Royal Commission said the hearing was first foreshadowed by Commissioners in May when they announced the commencement of an investigation to help them understand the impact of the pandemic on older Australians living in aged care facilities or receiving home care, and on their families and their carers.

Commissioners determined to inquire into the measures put in place to protect older Australians, their families and those employed in aged care in order to consider how best to react to such events in the future while balancing the need for safety and wellbeing for all.

“The pandemic continues to unfold around the world. In Australia, it is Victoria that is presently particularly affected. Commissioners and staff of the Royal Commission are monitoring closely the outbreak in Victoria and, in particular, how it affects people receiving aged care services and their loved ones,” it stated.

“While the upcoming hearing will include an examination of whether there have been systemic failures and the sector’s preparedness for the unfolding crisis in Australia, the focus of the hearing will not be specifically on the Victorian response to the pandemic.

“Commissioners have considered the evolving and ongoing nature of the crisis in Victoria, and in particular in residential aged care services in Victoria.”

It said to focus their inquiry on the Victorian response at this time would unnecessarily distract the State, affected aged care providers, and those working within affected aged care services and in aged care across Victoria more generally.

“Importantly, such a focus would cause unnecessary additional stress and distress for those grieving the loss of loved ones and those concerned for the wellbeing of others.”

The Royal Commission’s hearing will focus on the response to the COVID-19 pandemic in aged care, and what can be learned from this experience for responding to future pandemics, infectious disease outbreaks or other emergencies.

It said this will include consideration of:

  • the role and responsibilities of State, Territory and Federal governments in responding to such crises in aged care services;
  • what should be done and by whom in the future to support the aged care sector to respond to pandemics, infectious disease outbreaks or other emergencies;
  • the balance between managing risks posed by a future pandemic or infectious disease outbreak and maintaining the overall health and wellbeing of aged care recipients including their mental health and quality of life;
  • the measures taken by the health and aged care sectors to respond to the pandemic including transporting infected residents to hospital;
  • the impact of those measures on older Australians receiving aged care services, their families and their carers;
  • challenges faced by the aged care sector including those relating to management, workforce and access to personal protective equipment;
  • any other related matters.

The Commission said it expected to learn from how residential aged care facilities including Newmarch House, Dorothy Henderson Lodge and Opal Care Bankstown responded to the crisis, and what more could have been done to support them.

“The purpose of the inquiry is not to find fault or apportion blame,” it said.

The hearing will be conducted virtually, with attendance at the hearing closed to both the public and media due to the pandemic.

It will be accessible through live video streaming- external site on the Commission’s website. Transcripts will also be made available of the proceedings.

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