The complex ethical, legal and privacy issues surrounding the use of CCTV cameras in aged care residents’ rooms need to be carefully teased out after a Four Corners investigation showed footage of an elderly resident being assaulted by a care worker, Australia’s aged consumer group says.
Part two of the ABC’s Four Corners special investigation into aged care aired on Monday night, this time containing videos of residents being slapped and forcibly pushed down on a bed as well as allegations of cover-ups and questions about whether some deaths could have been prevented.
COTA CEO Ian Yates says there needs to be a careful investigation of the issues around having CCTV cameras installed in residents’ rooms, especially those put there by families or staff.
“The royal commission needs to tease this through,” he told Australian Ageing Agenda. “We are not opposed to or advocating, we are indicating that there are really serious and complex issues involved in this.
“The use of hidden cameras, to which families and staff feel they have to resort to protect residents, involves complex privacy and other legal issues that the royal commission must help untangle so we can protect residents and at the same time respect their right to privacy in their own bedrooms.
“We’re not saying that they never should be used but we’re very hesitant about their widespread use.”
Traffic light system
COTA is also calling for the introduction of a ‘traffic light’ system of rating for aged care providers.
The system, implemented in England by the Care Quality Commission, awards providers ‘red’ for a fail, ‘amber’ for a minor fail and ‘green’ for a pass. Exceptional performance is recognised with a star.
The Four Corners program also highlighted the need to get rid of the three-month window of notice given to providers for re-accreditation visits and introduce random, unannounced checks as soon as possible, Mr Yates added.
Leading Age Services Australia CEO Sean Rooney, who attracted widespread criticism after his appearance on the first Four Corners series but says he will remain at the helm of the industry group, said some of the footage on last night’s program was “sickening” and deplorable.
However he said the more than 200,000 Australians currently living in residential aged care received high standards of care from “passionate and professional” staff.
Aged and Community Services Australia CEO Pat Sparrow described the stories as retold on Four Corners as “unacceptable”.
Both peaks expressed confidence that the new independent Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, coming into force next January would drive improvements in Australia’s aged care system.
ACSA also said it looked forward to working with the aged care royal commission announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison on September 16.
“Consumers, the community and providers all need firm but fair regulation that is both transparent and protects the principles of safety and quality of life. Regulation that identifies and holds to account those who abuse and neglect,” Ms Sparrow said.
Approximately 3,000 submissions have been received on the terms of reference for the commission and they can continue to made until midnight tonight.
Nurses continue push for staffing ratios
Nurses meanwhile continued to use the airing of Four Corners and the current high media profile of problems in the aged care system to highlight their national campaign for mandated staffing ratios in care facilities.
The NSW Nurses and Midwives Association said it visited eight aged care facilities in Sydney’s eastern suburbs last night to audit nurse-to-resident ratios and found an average of one-to-68. The poorest ratio was just one Registered Nurse to 84 residents.
“This is a sector whose providers profit over $1 billion a year, receives healthy government subsidies, large resident deposits and fortnightly part-pension payments, yet it still has no guaranteed staffing or reporting requirements,” NSWNMA General Secretary Brett Holmes said.
A number of aged care providers were named in the last installment of the Four Corners investigation Who Cares, including Estia Health where a resident was filmed being assaulted by a former staff member.
The former care worker, Dana Gray, pleaded guilty to the 2017 assault in April and is serving 17 months home detention. Estia notified police as soon as it became aware of the allegations against Gray and dismissed her. In a statement last week Estia called for a national register of aged care workers.
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