At 10.00am this morning the words “please open the commission” rang out in Courtroom 11 at the Roma Mitchell Commonwealth Law Court Building in central Adelaide.

These words marked the long-awaited commencement of The Australian Royal Commission Into Aged Care Quality And Safety.

Commissioners Mr. Richard Tracy AM RFD QC, and Ms. Lynelle Briggs AO, took their seats in front of a packed courthouse, a courthouse that was so full in fact that some of the attendees who’s family members were victims of abuse within the aged care system, were allegedly unable to enter and instead forced to watch from a side room.

The official secretary of the commission James Popple kicked of proceedings stating the intentions of the commission and set out the terms of reference of the inquiry.

“Australians expect high standards of quality and safety from their aged care services and that it is important that the Australian government has the best regulatory and policy framework to provide a sustainable aged care system that meets the need of the future,” said Mr. Popple.

After being officially appointed Commissioner, Richard Tracy said that the scope of the commission would be broad, and “ it would extend to looking at quality and safety issues directly in residential and community care contexts including mistreatment and all forms of abuse.”

The commissioner also went on to say that the commission would also focus on younger people with disabilities living in aged care facilities and all those living with dementia.

And that they did not have to inquire into any matter that they are satisfied has been, or would be, looked into in other investigations or inquiries.

Commissioner Briggs then highlighted the amount of great work that a large number of people within the aged care sector are doing and thanked them for their contributions.

And outlined the fact that the commissioners are required to submit an interim report no later than the 31st of October, 2019 and a final report no later April 30, 2020.

The vast majority of today’s session was comprised of official acknowledgments and the rehashing of both the intentions of the Royal Commission and the scope that it will cover.

But there were a few things that stood out amongst the formalities.

 

  • The Royal Commission has only received 300 submissions by the general public so far.

 

  • Aim to hold a public hearing in each capital city and in some regional centers.

 

  • In addition to public hearings, there will be private hearings in some circumstances.

 

  • The submissions portal will remain open until at least the middle of this year.

 

  • Submissions and info received by the royal commission may be published on the commission’s website or otherwise disclosed. Individuals may request their submissions not be published or their submissions be published anonymously.

 

  • The aged care workforce is central and remains so in the task ahead

 

  • Requests were sent to 1982 approved providers in late November last year. To date, responses have been received by only 83 providers relating to approximately 2000 services and outlets.

 

  • It would be unlawful for an employer to take punitive action against an employee or former employee who assists the Royal Commission.

 

  • Preliminary observations indicate that the highest number of reported incidents come from residential care and these reports include: elder abuse, medication mismanagement, overuse of psychotropic medications, food safety issues, record keeping, and inadequate wound management resulting in death

 

  • 81% of the 300+ public submissions pertained to residential care

The Royal Commission is now adjourned until February 11th, and there will be a transcript posted of today’s proceedings on the Royal Commission Into Aged Care Quality And Safety website.

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