Call for royal commission into care

Tuesday, 16th May, 2017

The review comes after the reports of abuse and neglect at the Oakden Aged Mental Health Care facility in South Australia.

A ROYAL commission is needed to "root out the widespread abuse and neglect of nursing home residents" according to one of Australia's peak seniors' bodies.

Paul Versteege from the Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association says the recently announced government review of how care quality in nursing homes is regulated is "pre-ordained to find the system overall works very well".

The review, announced by Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt, follows the shocking revelations of abuse and neglect of vulnerable dementia patients at the Oakden Aged Mental Health Care facility in South Australia.

The facility is set to close in the wake of a scathing report by South Australia's chief psychiatrist Aaron Groves, sparked by the alleged overdosing of former resident Bob Spriggs. The report also found unreported medical errors, seclusion, restraint and rough handling practices and gross inappropriate conduct.

The coroner is holding an inquest into the death of another patient, 70-year-old Graham Rollbusch, who suffered head and neck injuries in his room in 2008.

More recently, the daughter of a woman who died at the Opal Raymond Terrace Gardens Nursing Home near Newcastle has called for mandatory reporting standards after her mother was found with maggots in her mouth the day before she died.

The review will be led by Kate Carnell, a veteran public administrator and regulator, in conjunction with Professor Ron Paterson, an international expert on patients' rights, complaints, health care quality and the regulation of healthcare professions.

Mr Versteege said the minister had clarified what he expected the review to find: "I want this independent investigation'ss recommendations to assure me and the community that the regulatory system in residential aged care works effectively," Mr Wyatt said.

Mr Versteege said his organisation "is convinced, and predicts, that the independent experts will not disappoint the minister.
"The debacle at the Oakden facility has shown for the umpteenth time that aged care audits, assessments, spot checks and accreditation generally don't do what they are supposed to do."

He said it was often impossible to get information about abuse, accusing the industry and the regulator of being protective of what happened in the industry.

He believes a royal commission was needed as it had the power to require evidence be produced and for individuals to give evidence.

Other organisations, however, have welcomed the review.

"While many people receive good care, unfortunately there are instances where this is not the case and there is evidence that the needs of people with dementia are not being fully supported through some of our mainstream aged care services," said Alzheimer's Australia chief executive Maree McCabe.

"Right now almost all providers of residential care meet all the accreditation standards, both at full scheduled audit and at unannounced site visits, and currently less that 1 per cent of aged care homes have identified failures.

"Given Alzheimer's Australia receives frequent feedback about consumer/carer dissatisfaction with the quality of residential care provided to people with dementia, we must question if the current standards set the bar high enough."

While welcoming the review, Council on the Ageing chief executive Ian Yates said his organisation had long been concerned that despite the formal accreditation and complaint process mandated by successive governments, "some poor behaviour has continued to 'fly below the radar', hidden from the accreditation processes; and with many of those residents and families who are affected not confident enough to complain".

Elder Care Watch spokeswoman Carol Williams questioned the need for a review.

"The views of interested parties on this regulation are well known and on the written record from many previous and current inquiries," she said. "It is high time politicians took some action instead of ploughing over old ground.

"In case the views of residents and their representatives need restating, the accreditation changes they would like are: less advance-notice audits and more unannounced audits with transparent reports; a move away from the continuous improvement model which is tantamount to a penalty-free zone; and more attention to care practice and less attention to paper policies. With respect to complaints, they would like to see more disclosure of offenders and the introduction of penalties. The current softly-softly mediation model was never requested by consumer advocates."

Industry body affirms commitment to care

INDUSTRY body Aged and Community Care Australia which represents not-for-profit aged care providers, said it and its membership was "committed to providing quality care and supports a firm but fair regulatory system which protects older people while allowing service innovation to flourish".

"The vast majority of aged care facilities in Australia provide quality care and the safety and quality of life for residents and clients is the number one priority for aged care providers," chief executive Pat Sparrow said.

However, she said the organisation understands the community needs to be assured that the Commonwealth's system of regulation works as it should.

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