Obligations for Aged Care providers under SIRS
Earlier this year, Core Integrity published a comprehensive guide to understanding the Serious Incident Reporting Scheme (SIRS). This guide can be found here: How to comply with SIRS – Everything Aged Care Providers need to know. The guide provides in-depth details as to what SIRS is and the obligations on Aged Care Providers under SIRS.
Further requirements for providers with the launch of Phase 2
From 1 October 2021, the next phase of SIRS came into effect. With the implementation of this next phase, Aged Care Providers are now required, under SIRS, to report all ‘Priority 2’ reportable incidents to the Aged Care Commission. The timeframe for such reporting is within 30 days of becoming aware of the incident. This adds an additional layer and requirement on Aged Care Providers.
What are Priority 2 reportable incidents?
Reportable incidents are matters that:
- involve the unreasonable use of force;
- include conduct of an unlawful or inappropriate sexual contact;
- constitute psychological or emotional abuse;
- involve an unexpected death;
- include when a staff member either steals from or financially coerces a customer;
- constitute neglectful conduct;
- include inappropriate use of restrictive practices; or
- result in an unexplained absence by a customer from care.
Priority 2 reportable incidents are any types of reportable incidents that do not meet the definition of a Priority 1 reportable incident. For a matter to be classified as a Priority 1 reportable incident, it needs to be an incident that:
- has caused a customer to have experienced injury (physical or psychological) which requires medical treatment to resolve. This includes incidents where psychological treatment is required;
- reasonably requires the Aged Care Provider to contact the police; or
- includes the unexpected death of a customer or the unexplained absence of a customer from the care of the Aged Care Provider.
As a result, a Priority 2 reportable incident will be any incident where:
- none of the eight types of incidents (as defined above) exists;
- there has been no harm to the customer requiring treatment;
- the police do not need to be notified of the incident; and/or
- there has not been an unexpected death or absence of a customer.
How to report an incident
Reportable incidents (whether Priority 1 or Priority 2) need to be reported to the Aged Care Commission through the ‘My Aged Care Provider Portal’.
Impacts of the new requirements for Aged Care providers
The impact of the need to report Priority 2 reportable incidents means that the remit of reportable incidents to be reported has grown substantially. This has the impact of placing additional obligations on Aged Care Providers. Accordingly, Aged Care Providers need to ensure that they have in place effective incident/complaint management systems to ensure that reportable incidents are captured, triaged, and assessed timely and appropriately. Even though this was a requirement since April this year (to ensure adherence with the launch of SIRS), the potential for Aged Care Providers to be exposed has increased dramatically with the launch of the next phase of SIRS.
What should Age Care Providers do?
Apart from the implementation of an effective management system, Aged Care Providers need to ensure that they are building the capability within their staff to be able to properly triage and assess incidents. This has now become vital, with the ability to distinguish between Priority 1 and Priority 2 reportable incidents having an impact on when and how it needs to be reported.
To build this capability, Aged Care Providers should be looking at implementing:
- Training relating to key roles within the complainant/incident management framework. This will ensure that these key roles can properly receive and triage reportable incidents.
- Training for all staff so that they are aware as to what SIRS is (if not already done) and the obligations on the provider in raising and reporting incidents. This training will need to set out the expectations of the provider and ensure that staff know what mechanisms and channels they can use to report incidents.
- Processes to continually review and assess the incident management system. This will ensure the system continues to be fit for purpose and capable of providing the framework required for the provider to meet its obligations under SIRS and other regulatory frameworks.