Residential Aged Care Assessments: What to Expect in 2021

The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (ACQSC) recently released its Sector Performance Report for the period July to September 2020.

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Managing Risks in the COVID New Normal: Why Your Aged Care Home Needs a Business Continuity Plan

On 28 October 2020, the Department of Health published the COVID-safe Framework for National Reopening. This framework aims to guide Australia to a state of ‘COVID Normal’ while managing the ongoing risks to public health.

The Framework represents the Australian Government’s plan to manage ongoing COVID-related disruptions. These kinds of plans are known as Business Continuity Management (BCM) plans, and they are not just the domain of government. In the face or inevitable and ongoing COVID-19 related disruptions, every residential aged care home needs a BCM plan, now more than ever.


What is a Business Continuity Management (BCM) Plan?

A Business Continuity Management (BCM) plan is a plan designed to ensure that critical functions can be maintained or restored in a timely fashion in the event of a material business disruption.

A BCM plan aims to minimise the financial, legal, reputational and other consequences arising from the disruption.

Organisations are encouraged to develop a series of BCM plans for a range of business disruption events such as telecommunications failure, fire, IT network system failure, and critically in the event of a pandemic.


BMC Plans in the Context of Residential Aged Care and COVID-19

In this context, a BCM plan is used to ensure that if a COVID-19 outbreak or other COVID-related disruption occurs, the home can still:

  • ensure the continuity of quality care and services to consumers
  • ensure the continued provision of a safe environment for consumers, staff and visitors
  • ensure clear communication to staff, consumers and consumers’ friends and family
  • comply with the Aged Care Quality Standards and respond to Commission visits in a timely manner.


What Happens if You Don’t Have a BCM Plan?

If you don’t have a BCM plan you are more likely to be hit hard when disruptions occur, which could mean:

  • unsatisfactory care for consumers
  • the potential need to relocate consumers
  • danger and stress for consumers, staff and visitors
  • poorer communication, leading to dissatisfied staff, consumers, friends and family
  • failed Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (ACQSC) visits or audits
  • a designation of “high risk” leading to sanctions.

And, ultimately, it could mean that your aged care home gets shut down.


What to Include in Your COVID-19 BCM Plan

A BCM plan must be tailored to the circumstances of your aged care home (e.g. staffing, governance structures, operational procedures), but should:

  • identify COVID-related risks that could disrupt your home’s operations
  • set out the actions your home can take to address these risks, including actions to prevent disruptions and actions to minimise disruptions after they occur
  • identify the people responsible for carrying out the plan
  • set out the process for testing and reviewing the plan
  • set out the process for communicating the plan to staff, consumers, their representatives and the wider community.

The plan should also explain what your home will do if you are forced to shut down temporarily.


What Sort of “Disruptions” Should the BCM Plan Cover?

For residential aged care homes in the context of COVID-19, potential disruptions include:

  • a suspected case or cases of COVID-19
  • a COVID-19 outbreak
  • ongoing and rapidly changing government (Commonwealth and State/Territory) regulations
  • increased frequency of ACQSC visits
  • PPE shortages
  • staff shortages, including a shortage of staff with the right skills
  • increased media scrutiny and reputational damage.


Useful Resources to Use When Drafting Your BCM Plan

Mark Bryan
Mark is a Legal Research Consultant at CompliSpace and the editor for ACE. Mark has worked as a Legal Policy Officer for the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department and the NSW Department of Justice. He also spent three years as lead editor for the private sessions narratives team at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Mark holds a bachelor’s degree in Arts/Law from the Australian National University with First Class Honours in Law, a Graduate Diploma in Writing from UTS and a Graduate Certificate in Film Directing from the Australian Film Television and Radio School.

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