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ScoMo calls royal com­mis­sion into nurs­ing homes

The Sunday Times - - Front Page - ANNIKA SMETHURST

THE aged-care sec­tor will join the banks in be­ing placed un­der the blow­torch of a royal com­mis­sion.

Prime Min­is­ter Scott Mor­ri­son said he can no longer ig­nore the alarm­ing num­ber of aged­care op­er­a­tors who are putting lives at risk by flout­ing the law in pur­suit of prof­its.

The Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment has been un­der pres­sure to crack down on providers af­ter a se­ries of scan­dals ex­posed ne­glect, cost-cut­ting, staff short­ages and abuse.

There was a 177 per cent jump in the num­ber of aged-care homes where a “se­ri­ous risk” to res­i­dents was iden­ti­fied last year.

PRIME Min­is­ter Scott Mor­ri­son will to­day an­nounce a royal com­mis­sion into aged care, say­ing he can no longer ig­nore the alarm­ing rate of op­er­a­tors flout­ing the law and putting lives at risk.

The Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment has been un­der pres­sure to crack down on the sec­tor af­ter a se­ries of scan­dals ex­posed cases of ne­glect, cost cut­ting, staff short­ages and abuse.

New gov­ern­ment data re­veals there was a 177 per cent jump in the num­ber of aged-care homes where a “se­ri­ous risk” to res­i­dents was iden­ti­fied in the past fi­nan­cial year.

There was also a 292 per cent jump in fa­cil­i­ties re­fus­ing to com­ply with rules.

Mr Mor­ri­son said he was “trou­bled” by the brief­ings he had re­ceived since tak­ing the top job and de­cided to act.

“Walk­ing by th­ese sta­tis­tics was not pos­si­ble,” he said. “I want to be sat­is­fied, I want to know how wide­spread it is.”

The Gov­ern­ment will spend the com­ing weeks con­sult­ing stake­hold­ers be­fore an­nounc­ing terms of ref­er­ence. But the royal com­mis­sion is ex­pected to fo­cus on the qual­ity of care in pri­vate and gov­ern­ment-run aged-care homes.

The in­quiry will also hear from young peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties liv­ing in res­i­den­tial aged-care homes. It is ex­pected to investigate how Aus­tralia can deal with the in­creas­ing num­ber of Aus­tralians suf­fer­ing de­men­tia, and the chal­lenges of pro­vid­ing ser­vices to el­derly Aus­tralians in re­mote and ru­ral ar­eas.

Re­cently, pri­vate aged-care fa­cil­i­ties have come un­der fire from ad­vo­cates for putting profit ahead of pa­tients. In an ef­fort to cut costs, some providers were re­cently ac­cused of dump­ing sick res­i­dents in hos­pi­tal emer­gency de­part­ments to avoid ros­ter­ing nurses on night shifts, de­spite re­ceiv­ing mil­lions in gov­ern­ment sub­si­dies.

But of­fi­cial data shows the surg­ing num­ber of com­plaints are not re­stricted to any one part of the sec­tor,

whether for profit or not.

The de­ci­sion to hold a royal com­mis­sion was also trig­gered by the Oak­den elder abuse scan­dal in South Aus­tralia where de­men­tia pa­tients at a gov­ern­ment-run fa­cil­ity were abused and ne­glected over a 10-yearpe­riod.

“As a com­mu­nity we ex­pect high stan­dards for the qual­ity and safety of aged-care ser­vices,” Mr Mor­ri­son said.

The Prime Min­is­ter said he was lucky that his par­ents John and Mar­ion were still liv­ing in their fam­ily home, where his mother cares for his fa­ther due to re­cent ill-health.

He said he wanted all Aus­tralians fac­ing the dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion to send a fam­ily mem­ber into care to have con­fi­dence in the sys­tem.

“When­ever you make that de­ci­sion, you want to be con­fi­dent as a hus­band, wife or part­ner . . . that it’s go­ing to be OK,” he said.

“They are trust­ing you 100 per cent that you are mak­ing the right de­ci­sions for them. That’s a huge re­spon­si­bil­ity and peo­ple feel that re­ally deeply.”

The an­nounce­ment comes ahead of a TV in­ves­ti­ga­tion due to air this week, but the Gov­ern­ment has de­nied it was a trig­ger to act.

The Gov­ern­ment will hope the pledge helps its prospects as MPs head back to Can­berra for another sit­ting week ex­pected to be over­shad­owed by a back­bench re­bel­lion that could force Peter Dut­ton to face the High Court.

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