Interview with Greg Cary 4BC Morning Show Compliance, Quality, Aged Care and Mouse Plague at Karingal Nursing Home in Dalby
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Greg Cary: The Minister for Ageing at a federal level is on the line, Mrs Justine Elliot. Minister, good morning; thanks very much for your time, good to talk to you.
Justine Elliot: Good morning, Greg.
Cary: Justine, I imagine you're as appalled as the rest of us are at the events that have been unfolding in Dalby. Can I ask you for your initial comment?
Justine Elliot: As you say, we are all really appalled to hear about the situation. It was really, really disturbing that this elderly gentleman, this war veteran, had been bitten by a mouse there. I've ordered a major investigation into the procedures and the processes at the home, because I've got really major concerns about this entire incident. It is really disturbing.
Also, I understand the home is run by Queensland Health, and I understand the Queensland Health Minister has apologised in relation to the incident. But from my perspective, I'm having this major investigation to find out exactly what's gone on there.
Cary: : Have you got any initial feedback that you'd be able to share with us this morning?
Justine Elliot:Well, Greg, we've heard a whole series of reports of what happened there. We've also heard potentially of a second mouse-bite as well. There's also been a whole series of concerns raised about the action that's been taken by Queensland Health and by the home, as well; and that's why I ordered the major investigation, so we can actually get all the facts and see what has happened and see perhaps how the home and how Queensland Health should have responded differently; and also to look at, you know, perhaps, recommendations to improve those procedures and processes.
Cary: Yeah, that's the problem up here; they always - as you'd be aware, we've had so many problems and really tragic ones, and all they ever do, seemingly, is apologise then move on to the next disaster. It's starting to wear a little bit thin.
Justine Elliot: Well, look, can I tell you from my perspective, Greg, since I've become the Minister for Ageing, I've brought in a lot more strict compliance and regulation in relation to our nursing homes. And we've got 2830 homes right across the nation. I've increased a lot of the regulations. As I said, I've increased the - particularly, the unannounced and spot visits by our independent Aged Care Standards & Accreditation Agency. I've also increased the police checks, as well, because I think when it comes to our elderly people, my main priority is for their safety and their health and their welfare.
Cary: Are there - in your investigations, are there any institutionalised problems in these areas? Or are most of the problems isolated? How would you characterise that?
Justine Elliot:It's often hard to generalise about these issues, but when we have all our different theories of compliance and regulations - and that can vary from an unannounced visit right through to the full accreditation process, and there's often a diversity in variety of problems - our main concern is to just get in there really swiftly and act as quickly as possible to protect the people that are there.
Sometimes, obviously, it requires a change to the processes in place at the home. In very extreme situations we will put a sanction on a home. We've got 14 sanctions across the nation at the moment. And also sometimes we might evacuate homes or close them, as well, depending upon the circumstances. But our main priority is to the safety and health and welfare of those people in the homes and we'll take whatever action needs to be taken to protect them.
Cary: Okay, so, when you talk about sanctions, what's the worst sanction? Taking a licence off somebody to operate?
Justine Elliot: Well, when we impose sanctions - as I say, we've got 14 across the nation - there's a slight variation in the action we can take. But generally, we'll put a sanction in place for about six months and we'll often appoint a nurse-adviser for that time and we'll have officials there monitoring the situation. And it's a very serious action to put a sanction on a home; even more serious can be to take their licence off them, and sometimes, even to immediately evacuate the residents of the home.
It really depends on the circumstances that we find there. And - but, look, can I also say - and really make the point - that of those 2830 nursing homes around the country, the vast majority do an outstanding wonderful job. I've visited many of them and I've spoken also to their great staff. We have wonderful people working in aged care across our nation and they do a tremendous job.
But my job as the Minister for Ageing is to make sure there's a very strict standard there and compliance and regulation.
Cary: Yeah. Anecdotally, a lot of the stories we get here and I get in correspondence from our listeners is that a lot of the nursing homes are stretched; therefore, the number of employees, in terms of registered nurses and other nurses, are probably not up to what is, you know, required, or at least optimum level, that the nurses themselves aren't getting paid enough, that they're accepting offers elsewhere. Is that part of an overall problem?
Justine Elliot: From the Government's perspective, if we look at the issue, say, of funding, we're investing more than $41 billion over the next four years into the aged care sector. Of that, more than $29 billion in the next four years is going to nursing homes; that's the subsidies we pay to homes to care for people.
So we're investing a record amount. And what we're saying is that we have a strict system of compliance and regulation and I certainly encourage all those providers that are running those homes, to make sure they're paying their staff adequately for the great work that they do. But we're investing record amounts to provide those services for our elderly people.
Can I also add, Greg, that I understand sometimes your listeners raise concerns about aged care issues. We have also have a complaints investigation scheme and they can be contacted on 1800 550 552; and I would encourage anyone if they have any issues in any of our nursing homes across the nation to ring that number with their complaint and they will all be thoroughly investigated.
Cary: Okay. I appreciate your time this morning. Just in conclusion though, an investigation into what's reported to have happened at Dalby?
Justine Elliot:That's right, Greg. I've ordered a major investigation into all of the procedures and processes at the Karingal Nursing Home at Dalby.
Cary: Okay. Appreciate your time this morning, Minister. Thank you.
Justine Elliot: Thanks, Greg.
Cary: Justine Elliot, our Federal Minister for Ageing.
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