Dr Cumpston, 78, obtained the raw data through freedom of information and is self-funding the research along with two colleagues who share his concerns about the aged care sector.
“We decided we wanted the aged care system to be in good shape before we needed it,” he said.
“They need to put more money into it, and supervise it better.”
Dr Cumpston analysed the past 10 years of non-compliance notices and the past 16 years of sanctions and found for-profit providers had non-compliance risks about 1.70 times those of not-for-profit providers and sanction risks about 2.78 times.
He said the difference could be due to a combination of the profit motive and a lack of regulatory oversight, calling for automated processes to detect “red flags” that may indicate a poor standard of care.
Dr Cumpston suggested using Fitbits to record the frequency and severity of falls, mandatory reporting of physical restraint use and beds that weigh residents daily to quickly detect rapid weight loss.
Computer programs could be designed to analyse prescription data to detect “unsafe combinations of drugs” and monitor pressure sores, he said.
Residents who participated in the aged care consumer experience survey were asked if they felt safe at their facility, whether it was “well run”, if staff “know what they are doing” and treated them with respect, properly explained things, met their healthcare needs, gave them autonomy and followed up on problems raised.
They were also asked if they liked the food and whether there were staff to talk to if they were “feeling a bit sad or worried” – the two questions that elicited the most negative responses.
While the survey results were positive overall, Dr Cumpston said the real picture was likely to be significantly worse than reflected as research had shown an unusually high proportion of healthy, mobile residents took part – suggesting a cherry-picking of participants.
A clearer picture would require a broader sample to be used, he said, saying 80 per cent of residents should be surveyed instead of the current 20 per cent.
The surveys were conducted as part of re-accreditation inspections that aged care operators knew were coming.
Dana is health and industrial relations reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.