This week’s release of South Australia’s Independent Commissioner Against Corruption’s report on the disgraced Oakden facility represents a warning to all people associated with the governance and management of Australia’s aged care sector.
Commissioner Bruce Lander QC has put all of us on notice including Ministers, governments, managers, administrators, aged care providers and health care professionals.
The Commissioner’s report is rightly relentless in its pursuit of responsibility and as he says, it should be required reading for all Australian public officers in positions of authority.
Aged care must always have humanity at its core. When that crucial compact is broken, so too are hearts and lives.
The Commissioner’s report “Oakden: A Shameful Chapter in South Australia’s History” made findings of maladministration against five public officers associated with the former Adelaide aged care mental health facility.
The Australian Aged Care Quality Agency first sanctioned and penalised Oakden in 2007 for poor resident safety and physical environment.
But for years, the Commissioner found that concerns were routinely covered up, and the facility and its management were a shameful disgrace.
He says: “Those who resided at Oakden.. were some of the most frail and vulnerable persons in our community. They did not have a voice.”
What is also disgraceful is that when voices of concern were repeatedly raised, with moves to new models of care suggested to the Labor State government, they went nowhere.
Two former South Australian State Ministers, with responsibility as far back as 2010, told the Commissioner that the long shadow of union power was at play.
Just before the last State election, the report reveals Labor didn’t want to “take on the unions” by changing the system of care, through outsourcing it to other providers.
Yet the Premier who presided over this shame is now asking to be re-elected.
What I can tell you now, is that if Premier Jay Weatherill’s Labor government had acted on those recommendations, dozens of frail seniors who endured abuse and neglect would have been freed from this hell years before.
Now, the former Oakden residents are being well cared for, and I can reveal that half are living happily in mainstream aged care homes, making the State Labor Government’s legacy even more disgraceful.
The Australian Aged Care Quality Agency has greatly strengthened its compliance regime and the Turnbull Government has moved to introduce unannounced inspections of all aged facilities, to help ensure the likes of Oakden never happen again.
The Quality Agency has conducted almost 1,800 unannounced visits to aged care services over the past 7 months.
It has introduced: tougher monitoring of high-risk and complex aged care facilities; improved audits and audit teams that better target a home’s risks and record of compliance; and has rolled out more clinical and specialist support for aged care quality surveyors
The agency has also introduced resident experience reporting, publishing 332 consumer experience reports on its website since September.
I would hope the sort of horror experienced by residents at Oakden is never allowed to occur in any other facilities, given the critical issues raised.
This definitive report on the Oakden tragedy must stand as a grim beacon to all, for our current and future aged care obligations.
What do you have to say? Comment, share and like below.