Five-star ranking system reveals one in 10 aged care homes is substandard

  • Published December 20, 2022

Sydney Morning Heard, 19 December 2022

Nearly one in every 10 aged care homes in Australia is substandard, according to the government’s new rating system, while only 20 of the nation’s facilities received the maximum five stars.

Aged Care Minister Anika Wells launched the star ratings tool to boost providers’ accountability over staffing levels, residents’ experiences and compliance issues as she defended the government’s proposal to delay the workforce’s interim pay rise until July next year despite a union and industry backlash.

St Basil’s in Fawkner, Melbourne - scene of the country’s deadliest aged care COVID outbreak with 45 deaths - and Newmarch House in Kingswood, Sydney, where 17 residents died from the virus during one outbreak - both reached the acceptable “three-star” standard.

Wells described “sunshine as the best disinfectant” in promoting the online ranking system that shows less than 1 per cent of the nation’s nearly 2671 homes received five stars, while 23 facilities received a one-star rating, and 200 received two stars, meaning just under 9 per cent needed quality and safety improvements.
“I’m thinking of residents and their families, and if they log on today and see that they’re in a one-star facility, we want them to be able to call that facility today and for that facility to be able to explain why that is, and what they’re doing to fix it,” Wells told a press conference on Monday.

Wells said the government wanted a three-star rating to be “the floor for people, not the ceiling ... we want everybody to move to four or five in the years to come”.

The majority of one-star aged-care homes within 250 km of capital cities in NSW, Victoria and Queensland were run by charities and many had previously been sanctioned by the watchdog due to quality and safety concerns.

However, Aged & Community Care Providers Association head Tom Symondson said providers had been assessed on their ability to meet 200 minutes of care daily for each resident, a rule that will not be enforced until October 2023.

“What that means is you’ll see a lot of facilities that are brought down by their staffing minutes,” he said, adding three stars was what aged-care providers were funded to achieve.

“Don’t make rash judgments about facilities because you wouldn’t go out of your way to see a three-star movie. They’re not the same thing.”

Following criticism over the government’s proposal to the Fair Work Commission to phase in the aged care wage rise in two lots over a 12-month period from next July, Wells argued the time line for the pay raise was “pretty fast work” and said any proposition it could be delivered before March was “troubled”.

“When you compare this to the disability care workers decision, where that pay rise was phased in across eight years, the idea that we would be able to do it, 15 per cent across 12 months, only months after Fair Work has handed down its decision, I think is pretty fast work in a pretty significant decision,” she said.

The government has offered an initial 10 per cent pay rise in July, and the remaining 5 per cent offered a year later, prompting Health Services Union national president Gerard Hayes to say that “in six months’ time [staff] will be working at Bunnings rather than waiting for another 5 per cent.”

UnitingCare’s national director Claerwen Little said the government’s position wasn’t the Christmas gift her network’s aged care staff were hoping for.

“This is not just an issue of concern for our older Australians, it’s an issue of gender equality. Women make up 76 per cent of the care sector and so, in a predominantly female workforce, it is clear that pay equity directly impacts gender equality,” Little said.