Mar 02, 2018

“Oakden Puts Governments and Australian Aged Care On Notice”: Aged Care Minister

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.

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  1. The corruption, neglect and abuse in the entire Aged Care System was brought to the attention of a group of pollies a decade ago. I sent letters to Nicola Roxon, Justine Elliott and Stephen Robertson sbout the abuse of my own father. I also wrote to CMC, Ombudsman, CRS, HQCC and nothing was done…nothing has changed. I teally hope this exposure goes right down the rabbit hole. There is a lot to unearth. Stop hoping it doesn’t happen again..and take action to guarantee it doesn’t!! The time for lip service is over!

  2. Minister, while I congratulate you on actions taken to address the deplorable situation at Oakden, I cannot support the ensuing attack on the integrity of the every single aged care provider in Australia. Oakden was a mental health facility, owned by the South Australian Government and run by the South Australian Health Department – is was NOT an Aged Care Facility. Notwithstanding, enormous impost has been applied to the Aged Care industry because of the failing of a State Government Health Department and Federal “Quality” Agency – NOT falling of the Aged Care industry.

    When the Patel issues arose in Bunderberg, the entire hospital sector in Australia wasn’t publicly denigrated. Yet with Oakden we have a failing in the healthcare system and the result has been relentless public denigratinon of Aged Care.

    Adding to the insult, one of the very parties at fault with Oakden, the Aged Care Quality Agency, is the very group now set loose to stormtroop Aged Care providers across the country.

    The Aged Care Industry is owed an apology.

    1. Mr Louden, I believe you are missing the point. The minister is pointing to the issues that lead to the Oakden outcomes going unchecked which conclusively come back to a sustained failure by the South Australian Government in the execution of its responsibilities in governance.

      The operating and reporting systems of the government as the approved provider are no different to those of any aged care organization, and sadly while the Oakden outcomes were made more catastrophic by the fact that the service was a mental health unit, the outcomes at Makk and McLeay in terms of actual issues of non compliance are by no means the worst seen across the country, with a great number of services failing greater numbers of outcomes. These services a not generally publicly vilified and only people in the general public who are aware of the My aged care web site would be aware of these numbers.

      As an experienced nurse advisor I can assure you, that the issues of poor governance at facility level, the failure to report upwards because of fear or of retribution and the lack of understanding and awareness of issues held at board level is all too common.

      It is exactly this point that the minister is making. The governance systems are failing our residents, and it is time that penalties are put into place if this continues to happen

  3. Re comments from Nick Loudon,

    I don’t believe the aged care industry deserves any apology until we receive details on all the unannounced visits to aged care facilities and we obtain the transparency we need about the provisions of care standards

    1. With respect Peter Stewart, when perfection is the minimum expectation, what exactly should we expect the outcome to be. Sadly, the Aged Services Industry has a pass or fail “quality audit system”, it’s either 100% or fail. In contrast, the healthcare system (hospitals) have a quality improvement audit system, whereby if the hospital doesn’t get 100%, there is an “opportunity for improvement” (recommendations) and support to do so. Can you see where provider frustrations are coming from?

      How about we actually put our efforts into establishing a new “Aged Services Industry Model”, this one clearly doesn’t meet the expectations of the consumer and is financially unsustainable. Neither does it meet the expectations of providers in the industry by the way.

      By consumer I mean the individuals and families who are the direct recipients of service, NOT the current primary customer of the system which are the Department and the “quality” agency. What is required is a totally different approach of consumer facing active involvement and open transparency (with the actual customers).

      The industry doesn’t have an issue with transparency and accountability, it does have an issue with perfection as the minimum expectation

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