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Incident Management: A Care Services Ruling

A wakeup call for care services workers

Working in the care sector? Then, a recent Queensland Magistrates Court ruling might come as a wakeup call.

This week, the Bundaberg Magistrates Court handed down an AUD $15,000 fine (plus court fees) to a carer who formerly worked in a supported accommodation facility.

Pleading guilty, the carer was found to have breached workplace health and safety laws.

What happened? When working alone, the carer left side rails of a patient’s bed lowered. The carer subsequently found the patient a metre from his bed, picked him up, returned him to bed, raising the side rails, but failing to inform higher ups or call an ambulance.

It was left to a morning shift worker to call an ambulance for the patient who sustained life-threatening injuries on par with those of car-crash victims, according to doctors. The patient spent almost a month in recovery.

Nor were the parents of the patient pleased by what they perceived to be the authorities’ cursory investigation into the incident. They went public, claiming a failure to investigate what had happened to their son.

Their claims touched a public nerve, leading to widespread outrage. An apology came down from the Queensland Ministry of disability services. And multiple investigations ensued.

The investigation by the state’s health and safety regulator proved the most fruitful, uncovering the negligence that led to the patient’s injuries.

What the ruling means for the care services industry

For care workers and their bosses, what’s the moral of this story? Breaching your duty as a worker (to ensure you don’t adversely affect the health of patients in your care) can cost you dearly – even if your employer has appropriate protocols in place, which this establishment was found to have.

For employers, ensuring those protocols are legible to your workers and easy to act on is also important – now more so than ever, when public focus on the care sector is at its highest.

Indeed, the price of non-compliance can be steep, not just with health and safety law but with national disability statutes, as well. For instance, a failure to comply with timely incident notification requirements can jeopardise a NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme) provider’s very condition of registration.

What can be done to avoid that outcome? Decision makers will find that purpose-built care services software, like Noggin for Care Services, comes with the requisite reporting workflows to create and transmit reports to the NDIS Commission once a reportable incident happens. Unlike rudimentary manual solutions (e.g., spreadsheets and shared documents), these software platforms save time and effort which would otherwise be expended by senior staff.

If that weren’t enough, those same easy-to-use, mobile-first platforms also fill in the gaps for providers who have case management and billings systems but lack a systematic way to manage the entire lifecycle of an incident – not just incident reporting, but also involvement, investigation, assessment, case notes, corrective actions, and lessons learned.

Via in-built reminders and escalations, these platforms not only ensure that incidents get escalated to the relevant stakeholders but also that legally mandated follow-up actions are completed within the required timeframe. The upshot: closed-loop continuous improvement and the removal of a key barrier for decision makers to report incidents and events. The latter helps curb systemic under-reporting, as well.

For decision makers, complaints management matters, too. Platforms can help, here, as well, with functionality to record complaints from staff or patients, create and assign follow-up actions, monitor the lifecycle of complaints to ensure actions are completed, and monitor trends through easy-to-create trend reports. This all happens within the same platform, which gives decision makers a single, common operating picture across the service, eliminating all conflicting sources of information.

In close, the ante has been upped on the incident management capabilities required of care service providers and their staff. Negligence and non-compliance come with a steep price tag (financial and reputational). With built-for-purpose compliance management system software, however, you won’t have to pay the price.

Those platforms give providers all the tools they need to effectively manage incidents that affect customers, giving them the market edge they seek in customer service and safety management. To demo Noggin for Care Services, a representative platform, request more information today.

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