Additional funding for access to medical services for residents of aged care facilities
All Australians have a right to medical care when they need it. For older Australians living in residential aged care, access to ongoing medical care and supervision is fundamental to ensuring they receive the best possible level of care as they grow older.
As the population ages, the trend towards rising dependency levels for residents in aged care will make it imperative that these residents have access to appropriate medical care.
There are currently few obligations on providers of aged care to facilitate access to timely and high quality medical care and supervision for all residents on an ongoing basis.
Approved provider responsibilities
Under the Aged Care Act 1997 (the Act) approved providers have responsibilities for the quality of the aged care they provide through their aged care services. Approved providers must comply with standards set out in the Quality of Care Principles 1997.
Under these principles, approved providers of residential care services must provide assistance in obtaining health practitioner services by making arrangements for health practitioners, including medical practitioners, to visit residents.
The Aged Care Accreditation Standards are standards for the quality of care and quality of life for the provision of residential care. The Accreditation Standards as set out in Part 3 of the Quality of Care Principles 1997 currently don’t impose adequate assessment criteria in regard to access to medical care. As a consequence, this requirement is met in a very adhoc way across the sector and is not sufficiently monitored or scrutinised as part of regular accreditation reviews like other important service and care requirements.
The accreditation assessment process currently does not closely monitor what formal arrangements are in place for an aged care facility to obtain medical care for its residents. Nor do the accreditation criteria demand that a residential aged care facility provides appropriate physical infrastructure for medical care to be provided on site. For example, very few facilities support the delivery of palliative care or provide an adequately equipped clinical treatment room that affords patient privacy, and contains sufficient medication imprests, and appropriate medical stocks (such as catheters, sterile gloves, wound dressing materials), as well as good information technology for patient records and medication management.
The AMA believes it is incumbent upon approved aged care providers to ensure that medical care for aged care residents is equal to the standard of medical care enjoyed by the rest of the population. This includes:
- accreditation arrangements and monitoring processes that ensure medical care and supervision of residents is provided on an ongoing basis;
- access to adequately equipped clinical treatment areas that afford patient privacy and information technology to enable access to medical records and to improve medication management; and
- access to sufficient number of registered nurses to monitor, assess and care for residents and liaise with doctors.