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Aged Care Bulletin 5 December 2019

In this edition: New Medicare support for older Australians, doctors develop new Standards for aged care, department updates material change form, aged care legislation amendment, whistleblowers policy deadline approaches and dignity of risk.

The latest insights from our award-winning Aged Care legal team:

If you would like to learn more about Russell Kennedy's expertise in the Aged Care sector, click here.

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New Medicare support for older Australians 

On the 1st of November 2019 the Australian Government introduced a new Medicare rebate for mobile x-ray services conducted at residential aged care facilities. The services include: x-rays of the shoulder, pelvis, ribs and sternum; chest x-rays for suspected pneumonia or heart failure; and abdominal x-rays for acute abdomen or bowel obstruction.

Previously residents within residential aged care facilities were transferred to hospital through an emergency department, as a consequence of this Mobile Medicare x-ray services were recommended by the independent expert Medical Services Advisory Committee.

Mobile Medicare x-ray services will ensure that fewer aged care residents have the expense and inconvenience of being transferred to hospital for x-rays. The Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians, Senator Colbeck stated ‘this will significantly improve access to medical treatment for older Australians and save on expensive costs’.

Further, the Morrison Government is putting an additional $6 billion into the Medicare Services health reform agenda which will make health care more accessible, affordable and patient centred. With $104 billion being invested into health over 2019-2020.


Doctors develop new Standards for aged care

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has developed the Standards for general practice residential aged care (Standards) to support and enhance the delivery of quality and safe general practitioner (GP) care in residential aged care facilities.

The Standards focus on the clinical interface between the GP (and GP team, including other practitioners from the same practice) and Residential Aged Care (RAC) facilities. The Standards for GPRAC set out essential minimum requirements for GPs in order to provide quality and safe care in this setting.

The Standards were developed by the RACGP to align with the requirements of the Aged Care Quality Standards (from 1 July 2019) and in consultation with GPs, residential aged care facilities, practice managers, nurses, consumers, subject matter and technical experts, and many other stakeholders.

The five Standards cover:

  • resident care coordination;
  • infrastructure, equipment, consultation spaces and treatment room;
  • information management;
  • medication management; and
  • qualifications of the residential aged care team.

Public consultation of the Standards closed on 5 November 2019. The final Standards are expected to be released by October 2020.

View the draft Standards here.


Department updates material change form

The Commonwealth Department of Health (Department) has recently made changes to its material change form. The material change form must be lodged with the Department by approved providers within 28 days of a change of circumstance that materially affects their suitability to be a provider of aged care. 

While much of the content of the form remains the same, the new form now specifically requires notification to the Department of involvement of third parties, for example, through appointment of a management company or brokerage arrangements for delivery of care. 

The form is also more prescriptive regarding required notifications for changes to key personnel within the organisation. Key personnel is defined in section 8-3A of the Aged Care Act and includes members of an approved provider’s executive and staff responsible for managing the provision of nursing or day-to-day operations of the services.

Find out more here and access the new material change form here.


Aged Care Legislation Amendment (New Commissioner Functions) Bill 2019

On 16 October, the Aged Care Legislation Amendment (New Commissioner Functions) Bill 2019 (Bill) was introduced in the Senate. The Bill amends the Aged Care (Accommodation Payment Security) Act 2006, Aged Care (Accommodation Payment Security) Levy Act 2006, Aged Care Act 1997 and six other Acts to effect the transfer of aged care regulatory functions and powers to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner. These regulatory functions and powers were previously the responsibility of the Secretary of the Department of Health.

The changes effected by this Bill complete a two year reform agenda, according to the Explanatory Memorandum “to strengthen and enhance aged care regulation to protect and assure the quality of care provided to consumers of Australian Government funded aged care”.

These amendments are in relation to the approval, monitoring and enforcement of regulatory compliance providers of aged care services and further provide for the reconsideration and review of decisions in respect of the Commissioner's new functions.

You can read about the Bill here and the Explanatory Memorandum here.


Whistleblowers policy deadline approaches – new guidelines released by ASIC

ASIC has now released its final guidance on whistleblower policies and relief for smaller not-for-profits. The guidance sets out the required information needed for a complaint whistleblower policy.

The new Australian whistleblower laws commenced on 1 July 2019 and included a requirement that all “public” (including not-for-profits registered as public companies limited by guarantee) and “large proprietary” companies have a compliant whistleblower policy in place from 1 January 2020.

Many organisations in the aged care and retirement living industries fall within this requirement, so this information is incredibly important. Action needs to be taken now to ensure a compliant policy is in place by the deadline.

Russell Kennedy has reviewed the ASIC guidelines and identified points that are important for the sectors.

You can read the full article here.


Aged care video alert: Dignity of risk

The concept of dignity of risk is not entirely new, however it now has a position of prominence in aged care with the Aged Care Quality Standards.

In this video update, senior associate Dr Melanie Tan explains:

  • What does dignity of risk mean?
  • Where and when does dignity of risk apply?
  • What is the duty of care within dignity of risk?

You can watch the Dignity of Risk video here.


If you would like to learn more about Russell Kennedy's expertise in the Aged Care sector, click here.

If you would like to stay up to date with Russell Kennedy's insights, please sign up here.

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