Care And Concerns: Nursing Homes Mapped
By Andrew Cobby, Sharona CouttsMarch 23, 2012
The Global Mail has created a new map that allows readers to see all Australian aged-care facilities that have had documented problems in the past few years.
The Global Mail believes in the importance of accountability and transparency in all areas of government and business.
In a field such as aged care - where billions of taxpayer dollars are expended to subsidise a massive industry that cares for some of the most vulnerable members of our community - it is essential for the public to have access to useful and current information.
Sadly, in Australia, that access to useful facts is not always available.
The main bureaucracies that oversee Australia's aged-care facilities are the Department of Health and Ageing, and the Aged Care Standards and Accreditation Agency. Both publish some information online. But that information is incomplete, and it does not much help people trying to find useful facts about the nursing homes they are contemplating for themselves or a loved one.
And when we dug deeper into what is going on in facilities across the country, we found some troubling problems that were not evident from the information that the government is currently making available.
The Department of Health and Ageing told us that it has "enhanced" transparency by publishing some information online, and the Aged Care Care Standards and Accreditation Agency says that "most consumers simply want the latest available audit report" but not earlier reports that disclosed problems at facilities.
Still, in terms of transparency, Australia compares badly to other similar nations.
In the United States, the government publishes much more detailed information about aged-care facilities, as well as their residents.
The Medicare website provides information such as the percentage of people who received flu vaccines, how many at a particular home suffer from bed sores, and how many experienced urinary tract infections, to name a few examples.
And it compares all that information to a state and national average, to really get a sense of how a particular facility is performing.
In the United Kingdom, the Care Quality Commission publishes detailed reports, in plain English, that describe conditions in particular facilities. The reports include comments from the people who use the facilities, and the website includes older reports, enabling the public to get a sense of how facilities have performed over time.
By contrast, Australia's accreditation agency removes all but the most recent oversight reports from the website. As a result, consumers cannot see any historical reports, and it is very difficult to determine whether a facility has had problems even in the recent past.
The Global Mail's investigative unit - Sharona Coutts, Joel Tozer, Clare Blumer, Paul Farrell and Adam Glyde - collected hundreds of official oversight reports about the performance of aged-care facilities and put them on a searchable map.
Our web developer, Andrew Cobby built this data vizualisation to help you check on an aged care facility you may be interested in using.
By clicking on particular facilities, you can search past and current reports from regulators, as well as information about the organisations that run each home - including which other facilities they operate.
We welcome feedback, so please send us a comment if you have encountered problems at these or any other facilities, or have any other information to share.
(Hat tip to Aged Care Crisis, an independent advocacy organization, for pointing us to these international resources.)