The independent report into the Oakden Aged Care scandal that has had everyone in the South Australian government, as well as the aged care sector, on their toes has finally been released.

Oakden Older Persons Mental Health Service was 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.

Independent Commissioner Against Corruption report sought to find if there was an maladministration in the Oakden case – and the damning report has named five individuals.

These people included Oakden nursing director, Kerim Skelton, service manager Julie Harrison, doctor Russell Draper, nurse Merrilyn Penery and health department official Arthur Moutakis.

The report also contained a schedule of complaints filed at Oakden from January 2007 to May 2017.

Some of the complaints included “staff deliberately allowing consumers to fall by letting go of the consumer, poor hygiene, observations of injuries to consumers, consumers left with faeces in their hair, staff referring to mealtimes as ‘feeding time at the zoo’ and staff referring to the consumers as a ‘group of mindless children.’”

In a statement, Commissioner Bruce Lander said every South Australian should feel “outraged at what happened at the Oakden facility”.

Australian Politicians Speak Out

South Australia Premier Jay Weatherill has responded to the release of the report, stating that the Government have accepted responsibility for the failings.

“To anybody who suffered abuse at the hands of workers at Oakden, I am deeply sorry,” he said.

“To their family members, to their carers, to their loved ones, I am deeply sorry.”

“The report makes maladministration findings against five public servants, none of whom are working at the new facility at Northgate,” said Premier Weatherill.

Federal Minister for Aged Care, Ken Wyatt, has said that he “welcomes South Australia’s Independent Commissioner Against Corruption’s comprehensive report and its recommendations to improve governance, accountability, reduce restrictive practices and guard against this ever happening again”.

“What happened inside Oakden was shameful and shocking and the Turnbull Government continues to be committed at the Commonwealth level to ensuring the situation is never repeated.”

In May last year, when the Oakden situation was fully revealed, Minister Wyatt immediately commissioned an independent review of Commonwealth aged care regulatory processes, which was completed and released in October.

“Like today’s ICAC report, that review recommended unannounced inspections of aged care facilities,” he said.

“Last October, I announced moves to implement unannounced re-accreditation inspections across all Australian aged care homes.”

Following the Oakden revelations in last May, the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency also commissioned an independent review of its processes, and has already tightened its compliance systems, including:

  • Tougher monitoring of high-risk and complex aged care facilities (such as mental health care facilities)
  • Improved audits and audit teams, targeting a home’s risks and compliance record
  • More clinical and specialist support for aged care quality surveyors

Reviewing Government Run Aged Care Facilities

“As a precaution, immediately following the Oakden revelations last year, the Quality Agency conducted a special risk assessment of all 24 (Commonwealth subsidised) SA Government-run aged care homes,” said Minister Wyatt.

All 24 South Australian Government-run aged care homes have received compliance monitoring visits in the past 12 months.

The Quality Agency also conducted a special risk assessment of all 21 State government-run aged care homes with mental health care components across Australia.

After immediately adopting unannounced inspections, the Government is considering the nine remaining recommendations.

This includes the establishment of an independent Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission to centralise accreditation, compliance and complaints handling.

This would include the functions currently undertaken by the Quality Agency and the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner.

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