Mar 01, 2018

“Appalled” and “Disappointed”: Oakden Families Speak Out After ICAC Report

The recent Independent Commissioner Against Corruption report, Oakden, A Shameful Chapter in South Australia’s History, has revealed the disturbing level of abuse and neglect that spanned more than a decade in the government run aged care facility.

The report found that five critical people – Oakden nursing director, Kerim Skelton, service manager Julie Harrison, doctor Russell Draper, nurse Merrilyn Penery and health department official Arthur Moutakis – were guilty of maladministration.

Their actions lead to a “general culture of secrecy at the facility throughout the period 2007 to 2017” which inevitably lead to vulnerable residents suffering.

Families and loved ones of those living in Oakden have understandably had an emotional response to the 312-page report, that detailed the abuse that occurred.

“One of the disappointing things for me today — and what I have read is that we still don’t have names of nurses, doctors, carers that did wrong in the facility — and it worries me big time that those people are still out there working in our healthcare facilities, whether it be in South Australia or Australia,” said Barb Spriggs, wife of a resident, Bob who was admitted to Oakden in 2016.

Within months of his admission, his family complained about restraints and medication that were being given to Bob, “you don’t need a degree or anything to go out to a facility like that and for somebody not to have picked up on it earlier,” she said.

“If all those people higher up had been doing their jobs properly, they would have and they should have picked up on it earlier.”

“It is embarrassing to think we live in SA and such a shameful thing has happened in this state,” Ms Spriggs said.

“It was very dark and dingy, you had that gut feeling that stuff wasn’t right there,” she said.

The report listed every complaint made between January 2007 and May 2017, which 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”.

Stewart Johnston, whose mother was a patient at the facility, said that reading the extent of the abuse made him “sick”.

“Most importantly it is blatantly obvious that our family members were treated like dirt by people who should have known better,” he said.

Alma Krecu says, that despite the release of the report, the carer that is responsible for her father’s death in Oakden has not been held accountable.

“It was a carer who abused my father and he’s out there working somewhere — that is my concern. He’s out there working somewhere,” she said.

“Two years in April [since my father died] and I will not stop until I get some justice for him,” she said.

Sharon Olsson, former nursing director at Oakden, spoke at a press conference, speaking on behalf of her staff.

“I apologise for my colleagues not standing up,” she said.

“I’d like to see removed from the [employment] contract you sign that you will not give out any information that you gain in the course of your employment or you’ll go to jail for two years,” she said.

“I think if that’s not the case maybe more nurses would have stood up.”

Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Statement

Commissioner Bruce Lander, who lead the maladministration probed even when other tried to deter and silence him, has said “every South Australian should feel outraged at what happened at the Oakden facility.”

“The consumers were poorly cared for, forgotten and ignored. The facility itself was grossly substandard.”

“Those findings do not, however, tell the entire story of responsibility for what went wrong at the Oakden facility,” he said.

“Senior people, including some ministers and chief executive, who were responsible by virtue of their office for the delivery of care and services to the consumers, should have known what was going on but did not.

“I find this astonishing.”

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