An independent review has been ordered for the Commonwealth’s aged care quality regulatory processes after it failed to identify the poor care and abuse that was happening at South Australia’s Oakden facility.

The aged mental health facility is to be shut down after it was found that they were mistreating and abusing their dementia patients. It has been alleged this abuse has been ongoing for years.  

The South Australian Oakden Older Persons Mental Health Service review of the partially government funded facility found that 13 ‘serious issues’ had not been addressed.

The South Australian Government commissioned review stated: “The Review heard and saw evidence that Oakden became better at knowing how to produce documents and records that Accrediting Bodies and Surveyors wanted to and expected to see; and better at ensuring staff knew what to say. However, it became no better at providing safe or better quality care.”

The Oakden Older Person Mental Health facility has three wards, of which two of them, Makk and McLeay were closed immediately and the third one moved.

The Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt has said that he was “shocked and concerned to hear about the mistreatment of ­people” who were being cared for by the Oakden facility.

“The health, safety and wellbeing of older people who reside in aged care services are of paramount importance to the Australian Government,” Minister Wyatt said.

Last week, it was announced that eight members of staff had been stood down, 21 staff had been reported to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency, and three incidents had been referred to police.

“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,” Mr Wyatt said.

With the national regulations in question, Mr Wyatt has said that a review is needed to identify any gaps so that they can “get to the bottom of any shortcomings”.

The inquiry will range over multiple departments and include the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency, the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner and the Health Department.

A review of the industry regulatory systems aims to make improvements to ensure “early detections and swift remediation” of any problems, so that another incident like Oakden is not repeated.

“I want this independent investigation’s recommendations to assure me and the community that the regulatory system in residential aged care works effectively.”

Mr Wyatt has ensured that if people have problems with the care they, or their loved ones, are receiving, then they should come forward and make a statement.

“It is important that people continue to report any issues of suspected abuse or poor quality services to the relevant bodies, such as the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner, to ensure that we can identify and address issues in the quality of care in aged care facilities.”

This aligns with what the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner, Rae Lamb, has stated in the past. Ms Lamb has said that her office had received 4500 complaints in the past years.  

For an industry where 1.3 million people are receiving care, this is a relatively small number of complaints. However, Ms Lamb suspects that there are still many more complaints that are not reaching her office.

Mr Wyatt has said that the terms of reference for the review have been developed and that independent reviewers will been announced in the near future.

The review of aged care quality regulatory processes is to be reported to the Aged Care Minister by 31st August, 2017.

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