Only 1 in 15 aged care homes get ‘unannounced’ spot checks
Only one in 15 nursing homes in NSW have had an "unannounced" visit by aged care regulators since the coronavirus pandemic began with specific PPE spot checks starting just this month.
NSW has 947 residential aged care homes, but The Daily Telegraph can reveal only 63 unannounced site visits were conducted across the state by the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission in the five months to August 14.
Nationally 235 unannounced visits took place over that same period, as did an additional 261 checks with 48 hours notice.
But the Commission only pivoted to ramp up infection checks earlier this month, sending its Infection Control Monitoring Team to check PPE usage and other COVID-19 measures into 89 homes in NSW and Victoria since August 3.
The lack of visits has sparked calls for the federal government to "beef-up" the Commission's powers.
The Commission has at least 472 staff, of which 273 are registered quality assessors who conduct the site inspections, according to the latest annual report.
It can also be revealed just $5.2 million out of an $800 million aged care sector package from the federal government was committed to additional resources to audit homes.
With this funding the Commission planned to hire 16.5 additional staff, and had secured 13 by April.
Labor's aged care spokeswoman Julie Collins said the government needed to be upfront about if it believes the regulator was "up to the task" of keeping older Australians safe in aged care homes.
"There haven't been enough visits to check on aged care homes and Australians are being left in the dark," she said.
"The Morrison government must beef-up the powers of the regulator to keep older Australians safe.
"Australians must have confidence that every aged care home is ready for COVID-19," she said.
The regulator is headed by Commissioner Janet Anderson, who earned $220,000 in her first six months in the role to June 30 last year.
Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck said the government was "committed" to ensuring the Commission could continue its "critical role" providing national oversight of the sector, including during the pandemic.
"This includes providing sufficient funding to the Commission including for additional staff, if required, to assist aged care providers to prepare for, and respond to, COVID-19," he said.
The National Cabinet has asked the Australian Health Protection Principle Committee to report back on what could be learned from the coronavirus outbreaks in Victorian aged care and is due to discuss the findings on Friday.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Nick Coatsworth said it will help inform states and the Commonwealth how to respond to any further outbreaks in the sector.
"That is building on the existing plans … made for residential aged care facilities, but most particularly incorporating the leanings off how to manage outbreaks."
Originally published as Only 1 in 15 aged care homes get 'unannounced' spot checks