Aug 03, 2017

Quality of Aged Care in Question – Whose Duty of Care is it?

Before you read this, know that our position is that it is completely unacceptable for any older person, whether at home or in aged care, to ever be subjected to neglect, substandard care or elder abuse.

For the quality of care to improve in the sector we do need operate differently to how things have been previously done. Which often starts from leadership.

Historically the sector has been known to be reluctant to open up, accept fault and actively take account to improve outcomes for residents and their families.

Last night, 7.30 on the ABC showed part one of a two part investigation called “Duty of Care”, looking at incidents that happened at Opal Aged Care homes, one of Australia’s biggest nursing home chains.

They spoke to a number of families who say their loved ones were mistreated and neglected during their time at Opal.

In this story we heard that multiple elderly people were neglected and abused, families were left feeling devastated and accused the operator of prioritising profits over care.

Examples of substandard care have become all too frequent in the media, and there no doubt are even more stories that have been left untold.

Severe incidents unfortunately happen every other day within Australia’s healthcare system, whether it be within a hospital setting, palliative care centre, home care or aged care facilities. Despite being completely unacceptable it’s unfortunately the reality.

In this instance the families obviously felt their requests for answers and the event following their loved one’s death was in their eyes not adequately followed up. And perhaps felt the only way to get the answers they needed was to make it public and advocate for their loved ones in their absence.


What 7.30 were able to do was take these allegations to the head of the company, Gary Barnier, who took account for the actions of his employees and the organisation.

As the CEO, Gary Barnier openly said that his staff “didn’t do enough” and that some staff actions were “unacceptable”.

There was a specific situation, where an elderly woman’s diabetes was so poorly managed that she ended up being rushed to hospital with blood sugar five times the accepted level – only to later die in hospital, which resulted in her son speaking directly with Barnier.

According to the son, Barnier said “you can take it to the media, I’ve been through worse” and then as a “token gesture”, because the family were in so much pain, offered to pay him $10 000.

When questioned, Barnier admitted that “at the time, it was my personal judgement that it was appropriate given the circumstances that he raised with me”.

Though Barnier’s actions were undoubtedly questionable, and left families feeling that the issue was unresolved, what was presented was conviction to take responsibility for what had happened.

“There are times where we don’t hit the mark, and it’s not acceptable and I should stand up for it and I should be held accountable – and I’m here for that,” Barnier said.  

He has done this on behalf of his organisation, but what about the staff who were involved specifically in these incidents, should they have to explain themselves publically too?

For the families left behind, no words or apologies will replace or allow them to forget the tragic circumstances and events leading up to their death.

CarePage’s Responsible Care initiative is about aged care operators bettering themselves and striving to be better and bring about more honest and transparent ways of caring for the elderly.

This sadly won’t be the last example of substandard care, but it’s how operators learn from this and change their ways to do everything possible to avoid such incidents.

Operators can learn from this; mistakes cannot be avoided – and when a mistake is made, they need to be able to put their hand up, be honest and deal with it in an appropriate manner.  

Part two of the investigation is scheduled to air tonight on the ABC.

What do you have to say? Comment, share and like below.

CarePage’s Responsible Care initiative seeks to promote dialogue and engagement between all stakeholders in the sector. The sector has faced a history of limited transparency and accountability due to structural challenges of the sector. These issues are often left unresolved and deferred through a sector wide systemic trend historically to openly engage and commit to improvements.  We believe that the sector requires a concerted effort to look beyond negative events and individual stories of distress however important these are, and for real change, to ask questions and accept answers focusing on constructive intent, innovation, cultural change, accountability and leadership rather than blame and avoidance.

Sometimes we note that some stakeholders may be frustrated with what providers or government say. Likewise sometimes providers maybe nervous to engage with consumers for fear of reprisal but every stake holders opinion is valid and all stakeholders need to respect each other for a real chance of sustainable change. Through our often exclusive series of expert interviews, videos and articles we hope to encourage and support positive change and provide our audience insights and educational information to navigate this industry change. We encourage and invite comments from all our readers and other industry stakeholders but ask that comments are respectful and questions are asked with a commitment to listen to the respondents answer and allow debate to facilitate the healing the sector so desperately needs. Be a Responsible Care supporter.

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