The Australian Government is commissioning an independent review of the Commonwealth’s aged care quality regulatory processes to determine why they failed to identify abuse and poor clinical care at Adelaide’s state-run Oakden nursing home.
Federal Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt said he was shocked and concerned to hear about the mistreatment of people at the Makk and McLeay wards at the South Australian Oakden Older Persons Mental Health Service.
A South Australian Government commissioned report on the Oakden home found poor treatment and potential abuse of elderly dementia patients at the facility.
The inquiry, conducted by SA’s chief psychiatrist, uncovered rough handling of patients, an excessive use of restraints, and a concerning level of injuries.
The facility is partly funded by the Federal Government. The latest inquiry also comes after a report in The Weekend Australian reported that the federal agency which oversees aged-care centres has repeatedly failed to detect shocking cases of poor care and neglect at scores of homes across the country, and in many cases had actually accredited them to continue operating.
Mr Wyatt announced the inquiry will investigate the role of the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency, the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner and the Health Department.
The independent review will examine and report by 31 August 2017 on the Federal Government’s aged-care accreditation, monitoring, review, investigation, complaints and compliance processes.
“I want to get to the bottom of any shortcomings in the national regulatory system that meant that the Commonwealth was not aware of the extent of the problems with the quality of care at this facility earlier,” Mr Wyatt said.
“The Federal Department of Health has received complaints and had ongoing contact with this facility in the past. This review will, therefore, consider how the extent of the issues had not become clearer to us.
“I want this independent investigation’s recommendations to assure me and the community that the regulatory system in residential aged care works effectively.
“I want this review to see if there are any short comings in the regulatory system that prevented the concerns at the Makk and McLeay wards being identified, as this regulatory system applies across the wider residential aged care system.”
I have written about the role that public service cuts have played on both the Government’s online Census debacle and Centrelink’s automated debt-recovery system before, but the recent Oakden issues show there are consequences even worse than that.
This is not an isolated case. The report in The Weekend Australian found at least 10 examples of aged-care homes that formally met all of the regulator’s 44 accreditation standards, yet it was later revealed that they failed to provide a reasonable standard of care. These included three cases where patients died due to receiving inadequate care.
The Government’s review into the oversight process is welcome, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the constant cuts to the public service would have an effect on the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency’s ability to monitor the sector properly.
The Government’s policy of not replacing public service staff that leave has seen a wealth of knowledge leave all sectors, and few could prove as damaging as the experience lost around aged care.
More than 18,000 public service jobs have already been lost and if the hard-line stance continues in the Federal Budget handed down next week, yet more could be gutted from the system.
These short-sighted cuts, without any thought about their real world effect, will only lead to more problems from the service delivery sector.
If the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency is going to be asked to do more than just tick boxes and actually monitor the sector properly, it is going to need a proper injection of resources. Hopefully this review makes those suggestions and the Government follows through so we can see a better quality of care across the sector.
Are you happy with the way aged care facilities are currently monitored? Have you had complaints about the treatment of a loved one ignored? Share your experiences in the comments section below.