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Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety - Four Corners

Victor Harcourt, Anthony Massaro, Riaza Rigby

The Governor-General has today released the Terms of Reference for the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. We encourage providers to become familiar with the scope of the Commissioners' inquiry.  

Four Corners program  

Given the key issues raised across the two episodes, we foresee greater advocacy from residents and representatives as a direct response to the Four Corners program. You and your staff may see an increase in direct complaints, constant requests from family members to see and discuss entries made in medical records and requests for information around your staffing mix and qualifications.

You may see an increase in the frequency of family members seeking to install cameras either with permissions or covertly to record staff following the abuse exposed on the program. Russell Kennedy have previously advised on the issues with cameras and you can access our initial guidance here.

We suggest providers get ahead of these issues and circulate a communication to residents and their representatives that informs them about your organisation’s policy on recording using covert cameras, how complaints management is being prioritised at this time and how care recipients and their representatives can raise issues. It is realistic to expect that representatives are more likely to wish to engage with staff on a range of issues and providers should be mindful of the impact on staff resources. Unfortunately, the approach taken by Four Corners increases the likelihood that care recipients and representatives will rely on adversarial means to deal with their concerns.

Staff should also be informed about the organisation’s expectations around dealing with care recipient complainants during this time and the increased scrutiny on them in their day to day jobs. We recommend staff are offered support to cope with this negative media environment and are encouraged to work with your organisation on improvements. It is particularly important to remind staff of your processes for managing their concerns and complaints, and to ensure appropriate record keeping at all times. As a consequence of the criticisms levelled at the regulators, there may also be an increase in compliance action and site visits in response to complaints rather than the usual email/phone contact. Providers should be on alert about ensuring care is consistent and staff and stakeholders are kept well informed about the organisation’s actions in responding to the Royal Commission and the media coverage. 

For further resources, we encourage you to visit our Royal Commission webpage which is updated regularly with insights and materials. 

If you would like more information please contact Victor Harcourt from our Aged Care team.

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