The nation was shocked last year when it emerged that a federally funded aged-care facility run by the former South Australian Labor government had for 10 years housed elderly dementia patients who were over-medicated, inadequately fed, injured, placed in mechanical restraints for up to 10 hours a day and isolated in squalid conditions.
The treatment, including practices that lacked “any humanity”, at the Older Persons Mental Health facility at Oakden, in Adelaide’s northeast, left the state government with no choice but to close it.
An investigation had been commissioned in December 2016 only after the family of a patient persisted with a complaint made six months earlier that was initially fobbed off.
As revealed by The Australian in March, senior health officials wrote briefing notes to state Labor ministers for years urging them to transfer Oakden to private operators to improve care and conditions for vulnerable residents, but no action was taken amid fears of an “industrial war” with unions.
The Independent Commissioner Against Corruption, which also released a damning report, was unable to investigate further because premier Jay Weatherill denied access to any relevant cabinet papers. ICAC did find state ministers responsible for Oakden’s failures and noted their lack of awareness was “astonishing”.
Yesterday, Scott Morrison said that in the 12 months since Oak- den was shut, the federal Health Department had closed almost one aged-care service a month, with an increasing number under sanction.
A royal commission into aged care, announced yesterday by the Prime Minister, could lead to the biggest commonwealth shake-up of the sector since the kerosene baths scandal in 2000 revealed a systemic crisis.
A review into federal agencies that oversee aged-care centres, ordered by Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt last year, found there were 4500 complaints a year about the nation’s 2678 accredited facilities.
This month, 35-year-old agedcare worker Prakash Paudyal was charged over the alleged assault of an 82-year-old resident with dementia at a Bupa aged-care home in Seaforth, in Sydney’s north.
In June, a NSW magistrate condemned the assault of an “extremely vulnerable” 85-yearold dementia patient in Sydney aged-care facility The Poplars by staff member Dana Maree Gray, who aggressively pulled off the woman’s white robe and slapped her repeatedly.
In February, three nurses were sacked and a doctor reported to the Queensland Health Ombuds- man after suspicious deaths of five residents at the Carinity Fairfield Grange aged-care facility in Townsville, which is privately run.
Last year, 19 Victorian nursing homes failed to meet some of the most basic standards of care.
Mr Morrison said such incidences of older people being hurt “simply cannot be explained or excused; we must be assured about how widespread these cases are”.