Transparency in Aged Care: Why is this so hard?

Of the 122 homes in Victoria where there are currently COVID19 cases, just nine are disclosed on the Government's MyAgedCare website and none on the various advertising based search sites.

This isn't actually about COVID19, but these crises draw people's attention to the real issue: There is a complete lack of transparency in our residential aged care system. The federal government, the arm of government responsible for aged care, does not want to provide consumers with simple access to the government’s own information but instead are focused on ensuring they balance this with meeting their responsibility to aged care providers that ratings are fair and operators have the right of reply, on their own written admission.

After years of atrocious evidence of incompetence and neglect, forgive me for suggesting that the "balance" is far too heavily weighted to the industry, likely the result of the three well-funded lobbying groups that industry uses to pressure the government for more funding while rejecting all calls for any transparency. The ABC this morning asked two of those lobbying groups whether all facilities provided training on the use of protective equipment (PPE) to help prevent COVID outbreaks. The answer was that they don't know as it is not measured, but it was "Lots and Lots" (ACSA) and "The Bulk of Them" (LASA). I feel better now - just like hearing from Qantas that "The Bulk" of pilots are trained.

And to be clear so that there are no accusations of political alignment by yours truly or my colleagues, this is not political issue, but an issue deeply embedded in the bureaucrats that actually run MyAgedCare and from our experience pay little notice of the minister of the day. This issue existed under our last dozen Prime Ministers. The only question is which one will care enough to fix it?

Myagedcare has spent tens of millions of dollars on their website that still can't provide basic tailored searches that we have become used to in every other sector of life, as cited by the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety:

“Given the size of this investment [the $273m received by the Department of Health in 2018/19], it is surprising that My Aged Care is still unable to deliver relevant local and individually tailored information to the people who call upon its services or visit its website”

– “Neglect”, p128

Their website markets to those operators to pay for premium advertising so that they will get "Higher Search Result Ranking". This website is so focused on marketing and not transparency that has proactively promoted COVID19 infected homes over more suitable homes.

That search service pushed families into Dorothy Henderson Lodge and Newmarch House during Sydney's devastating outbreaks in March, and now actively promotes some of the worst hit homes in Melbourne.

For all the great efforts by the ABC Four Corners program resurfacing this decades-long issue, work by independent MPs like Rebekha Sharkie or advocate groups like Aged Care Crisis and National Seniors to get more transparency, the conclusions of the Royal Commission that myagedcare has failed to provide useful decision making tools to consumers despite their $273m budget, we still have the bureaucrats in Canberra and the industry bodies working against transparency.

My parents deserve better. Your parents and grandparents and partners and brothers and sisters and friends all deserve better. Waiting for government and industry to fix this will take so long they will be at risk of the same lack of respect and dignity we have seen inflicted by the incompetent minority amongst aged care operators.

Problem right now do we actually know who these problem operators are? How do we now which home is the best fit for Mum, as opposed to the best revenue for advertising sites? How do we now whether there has been a history of quality or compliance issues that if I knew about them, I would never put my mother in that home?

Join us. We might not have the solution, but we aren't going to sit around waiting for it either. Care360's Quality of Care Reports, independent, transparent, personalised based on 70 different criteria selected by the family, not the industry, three years in the making and coming soon.

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