According to Non-Compliance Checker, between 1 July 2020 and 16 August 2020, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (ACQSC) issued 25 aged care homes with “Notices to Agree” threatening to revoke their accreditation unless certain conditions were met.
This represents a massive increase in the number of Notices to Agree previously issued by the ACQSC. According to the ACQSC website, only five Notices to Agree were issued in the period March to June. Much of this increase can be accounted for by the COVID-19 outbreaks in Victoria: 19 of the 25 Notices to Agree were issued to homes in Victoria.
This presents an opportunity to gain insight into the ACQSC’s approach. In this article we analyse the 25 Notices to Agree to show you how the ACQSC is responding to outbreaks of COVID-19 and breaches of infection control requirements.
How the ACQSC Responds to a Serious Infection Control Breach: the Notice to Agree
As noted above, the ACQSC’s preferred approach to breaches of infection control requirements appears to be to issue a Notice to Agree. But what is a Notice to Agree?
Where an aged care provider is seriously non-compliant (such as in the case of a breach of infection control requirements) the ACQSC has the power to revoke the provider’s accreditation. But the ACQSC will rarely use this power without first giving the provider a chance to fix the situation. A Notice to Agree is the form the ACQSC uses to tell providers what they have to do to avoid their accreditation being revoked.
According to the ACQSC website, circumstances where the ACQSC will issue a Notice to Agree include where:
- the provider has failed to give an undertaking to remedy their non-compliance
- failed to comply with an undertaking to remedy their non-compliance
- made submissions in response to a non-compliance notice that are unsatisfactory, or
- where the Commissioner is satisfied the provider’s non-compliance poses an immediate and severe risk to the safety, health and well-being of care recipients.
What Kinds of Breaches Resulted in a Notice to Agree?
Each Notice to Agree sets out the specific requirements in the Aged Care Quality Standards that were breached and now have to be addressed. Almost all the Victorian Notices to Agree were COVID-19-related and were issued because of breaches of requirements relating to infection control. The breaches related to requirements within:
- Standard 2 – Ongoing assessment and planning with consumers
- Standard 3 – Personal care and clinical care
- Standard 8 – Organisational governance
What Were Providers Required to Do to Avoid Losing Accreditation?
Many Victorian homes were given roughly the same ultimatum, telling them that in order to avoid having their accreditation revoked they had to agree to these terms:
- not admit any new care recipients to the Service until you can demonstrate to the Commission’s satisfaction the serious risk to care recipients at the Service has been addressed
- appoint, at its expense, an eligible adviser to assist it to comply with its responsibilities
- the adviser must be appointed until the Service is declared free of all positive cases of COVID-19 and the delegate is satisfied that the Service is compliant with the Aged Care Quality Standards
- implement and comply with all advice, recommendations and directions of Victorian health authorities
- ensure daily meetings are held with the Commission (until the Service is cleared of all positive cases of COVID-19)
- ensure a written report is prepared and provided to the Commission on a weekly basis; and
- communicate with families of care recipients on a regular basis to ensure they are kept informed and updated.
Some homes were also required to train staff on certain issues, particularly infection control, and to provide the ACQSC with proof of training completed.
Have Any Providers Had Their Accreditation Revoked?
As at 18 August 2020, the 25 Notices to Agree issued since 1 July 2020 are still being monitored. None of the homes have lost their accreditation.
How Do I Find a Notice to Agree?
Notices to Agree are publicly accessible. You can find them by using the Non-Compliance Checker on the myagedcare website.