The Governance Institute of Australia has backed calls for a new governance standard for the aged care sector following the release of 124 recommendations on Thursday by the lawyers assisting the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.
The recommendations, that include an overhaul for boards and skills in the sector, cover many of the hallmarks of leading governance practices, chief executive of Governance Institute of Australia Megan Motto said.
“There is an urgent need for an overhaul of governance and risk management in the aged care sector and these recommendations lay a solid path for that transformation,” Ms Motto said.
“The lives of some of society’s most vulnerable are at stake and change is needed as a matter of urgent priority. We strongly welcome the release of these recommendations today and now await the final report from the commission in February – and the government’s response and funding allocations to this.”
The aged care sector should be reconstructed, with nursing homes required by law to deliver minimum adequate care standards and address system-wide neglect that is currently failing at least 20 per cent of residents, according to the plan revealed at the aged care royal commission.
The proposed reforms are contained in the 124 recommendations to the royal commission by counsel assisting Peter Rozen QC and Peter Gray QC.
They also include mandatory minimum staff levels, price controls and a universal right for seniors to access care.
In the 500-page submission urging a fundamental redesign of the aged care system, the lawyers propose mandatory minimum hours of care per resident and a new legally enforceable duty of care on providers to deliver quality services.
The Governance Institute said a new governance standard requires providers to have a governing body with a “mix of skills, experience and knowledge of governance responsibilities.”
This includes care governance, required to provide governance over the structures, systems and processes for ensuring the safety and high quality of the care delivered by the provider.
A care governance committee should also be formed, with a complaints management system and effective risk management practices along with the establishment of a program of ongoing assistance for providers, to “improve their governance arrangements, including their care governance arrangements”.
Governing bodies should also have a majority of independent non-executive members and a “fit and proper person test” for key personnel.
The vexed issue of staffing levels is also covered in the recommendations with mandated staffing ratios part of the proposed plan.
Ms Motto said problematic staffing has been highlighted throughout the pandemic as having a major negative impact on the aged care sector – a weak link in keeping the impact of COVID-19 at bay.
“The work that aged care sector employees carry out is some of the most important in our society – but staffing levels need to be adequate and effective processes need to be in place to ensure they can carry out their work effectively and safely,” Ms Motto said.
“Sadly, this has clearly not always been the case. For many, work burdens are high and processes inconsistent.”