AMA President, Dr Mukesh Haikerwal, said today the Government must amend its new aged care legislation to protect vulnerable elderly Australians from abuse in aged care facilities.
The proposed Aged Care Amendment (Security and Protection) Bill 2007, which the Government hopes to implement from 1 April, calls for the compulsory reporting of any physical and sexual abuse in aged care facilities.
The recent Report of the Senate Committee on Community Affairs inquiry into the Bill failed to recommend changes that would ensure better protection of older Australians in aged care facilities, who are often mentally and physically frail, Dr Haikerwal said.
"We fully support compulsory reporting of abuse by staff against residents in the aged care sector," Dr Haikerwal said.
"But the AMA is concerned that the Bill in its current form also would require compulsory reporting of resident-on-resident and resident-on-staff abuse, where there's no documented diagnosis of dementia.
"This would create an enormous amount of paperwork and detract from the central aim of the legislation.
"There's a danger that the resulting mountain of red tape would divert resources from where they are needed most and from where the public expects the duty of care to be highest - reporting and addressing the shocking and intolerable abuse of residents by staff."
Instead, the AMA recommends that aged care providers internally record and investigate all episodes of resident-on-resident and resident-on-staff abuse as part of a comprehensive risk management strategy.
"This strategy would include behaviour management plans and staff training and education, and should be incorporated into the Aged Care Standards, then monitored accordingly," Dr Haikerwal said.
"Of course, aged care providers should report to the police any incident sufficiently serious to warrant legal intervention.
"The Government should urgently review this section of the legislation so that it can achieve what it is designed for - addressing abuse by staff against residents and providing a safer environment for all residents of aged care facilities."