New work hopes to help address ‘shocking tale of neglect’ in Australia’s aged care sector

A $1.3 million Federal Government fellowship announced in the past week will go a long way towards understanding and addressing the ‘shocking tale of neglect’ in Australia’s aged care sector.

Associate Professor Maria Inacio, from the University of South Australia and South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI), will use the NHMRC Investigator Grant to investigate a better way to monitor and deliver safe and quality aged care services to older people.

The experienced epidemiologist has been awarded the funds to expand the work she has done with the Registry of Senior Australians (ROSA), a national database which identifies who accesses aged care services and how it affects their health and wellbeing.

Failures within in the aged care system in Australia have been exposed by the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, established in early 2019 following an increase in disturbing incidents involving abuse and neglect in aged care facilities across the country.

An interim report handed down by the commissioners in October 2019 found that the aged care system was “unkind and uncaring” towards older people and, in many instances, neglected them.

Assoc Prof Inacio says high quality evidence to support the sector is lacking in certain areas, which can lead to practices that can expose older Australians to significant risks, that could be avoided with the right tools and monitoring.

Her initial work is focusing on major concerns in the aged care sector, including falls, fractures, pressure injuries, premature mortality, unplanned/emergency hospitalisations, and quality use of medicines.

“More than 1.3 million people receive government-subsidised aged care services in Australia each year at a cost of $1.8 billion to the Federal Government, but the sector is not being monitored adequately,” Assoc Prof Inacio says.

Over the next five years she will lead a team to develop a better monitoring system for the aged care sector, establish quality and safety indicators that can be used for benchmarking by providers, and investigate what contributes to practice variation and health outcomes.

Assoc Prof Inacio’s fellowship is one of four successful Investigator Grants awarded to the University of South Australia, totalling $7.8 million.

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