With the release of the final report of the Royal Commission Into Aged Care, one of its most frightening details is that in 2019-20, over 851 alleged sexual assaults were reported in aged care facilities. However, as resident-on-resident assaults for the most part go unreported, the real figure is likely “as high as 2,520, or almost 50 per week”.
Despite such high statistics, the report’s 148 recommendations make no specific recommendations as to how that issue that predominantly affects older women should be managed.
The issue is expected to be managed by an enhanced reporting system known as the Serious Incident Response Scheme (SIRS) that begins on 1 April.
The scheme requires aged care providers to identify, record, manage, resolve and report all serious incidents that occur, or are alleged or suspected to have occurred.
Aged care providers also need to have in place an effective incident management system to manage all incidents, respond to incidents, and take steps to minimise the risk of preventable incidents reoccurring. The incident management system covers a broader range of non-reportable incidents and includes incidents that involve staff or visitors.
Under the existing system, aged care providers do not have to report incidents that involve a perpetrator who has a cognitive impairment and the operators have got strategies in place because it is felt that an impaired person cannot be successfully prosecuted.
“In some cases, family members encourage their loved ones to move into residential care because they felt that it would be safer for them”, the report notes. “But, on the contrary, people living in residential aged care likely face a much higher risk of assault than people living in the community.”
Under SIRS, there is a wider range of serious incidents that are reportable than those reported under current compulsory reporting requirements. Importantly, providers will have to report incidents of abuse and aggression between consumers, including where the resident who commits the incident has a cognitive or mental impairment.
Under the SIRS protocol, aged care must report all ‘Priority 1’ incidents within 24 hours to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission. ‘Priority 1’ incidents include those that cause or could reasonably have caused physical or psychological injury or illness requiring some form of medical or psychological treatment. Instances of unexplained absence from care and any unexpected death of a consumer are always to be regarded as Priority 1 reportable incidents.
From 1 October 2021, all ‘Priority 2’ incidents, that is reportable incidents that do not meet the criteria for ‘Priority 1’, must also be reported within 30 days.
In addition, the SIRS requires every residential aged care service to have in place an effective incident management system – a set of protocols, processes, and standard operating procedures that staff are trained to use.
For further information, refer to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission website, https://www.agedcarequality.gov.au/sirs