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<p>Photo by Ella Rubeli</p>

Photo by Ella Rubeli

Care And Concerns: Nursing Homes Mapped

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.

Until now.

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.)

3 comments on this story
by Angela Giford

Aged Care: I am a nationwide care provider in the UK and have now made four trips in three years studying the Australian aged and disability care sectors.

The recent PC consultations and recommendations places Australia roughly where The UK was in the 1990's.

Our major care reforms began then, we made many mistakes, but thankfully care services in the UK are now transparent, safer, provide choice, innovative care packages, etc. and are customer directed.

Speaking to care providers this week in Australia they are not confident that many of the PC recommendations will make law, that the care funding systems will change and that better integration of social care and nursing (for the benefit of individuals) will happen due to the power of the unions.

As a provider who has trodden every step of the UK care reform road and know the benefits to those who need care, the carers who work for them and the agencies who make it happen, it all looks very sad!

March 24, 2012 @ 2:51pm
by jane

My mums former ACF isn't mentioned on this map and there was plenty wrong with it! I complained numerous times and I found the system (CIS) pretty much ( in my opinion) hopeless.

No air con in stinking hot rooms, rude staff, cheap and nasty food ( hot dogs dim sims), cold food, and residents too scared to complain.

the only way people will really know what is going on, is when consumers take aged care complaints into their own hands and review these places themselves.

My mother was slapped by a staff member and the nurse (div 2) got away with it...the police saying that my mum and her witness another resident had cognive problems and they were unreliable witnesses.

much of the aged care in this country is a disgrace. anyone making a profit at the expense of the residents should take a good hard look at themselves. I am disgusted.

March 24, 2012 @ 8:29pm
by James

Making this data more transparent and accessible is a good start, but really we need to give people a voice to report their own concerns or praise of nursing home services.

From next year, Patient Opinion in the UK is extending its scope to cover "social care services such as nursing homes, residential care homes for the mentally disabled and home care providers."

Patient Opinion Australia has only recently launched, but perhaps in time we might see their model extended here to cover nursing homes as well.

May 5, 2012 @ 9:31pm
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