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Commissioners outline vision for aged care inquiry


Joint commissioners of the aged care royal commission Richard Tracey and Lynelle Briggs

The first public hearing of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety gets underway in Adelaide today to set the scene for the next 15 months.

At the hearing, commissioners Lynelle Briggs and Richard Tracey will each make a statement about the operation of the commission, including for the forthcoming public hearings, which kick off in Adelaide next month.

Senior Counsel Assisting the Royal Commission will also make a brief opening statement at today’s hearing, which will begin at 10am at the Roma Mitchel Commonwealth Law Court Building.

No witnesses will be called today.

As previously reported, all Commonwealth-approved aged care providers were requested to make a submission detailing all instances of poor care and complaints per outlet since 2013, due 7 January from the largest 100 providers and 8 February for the remaining organisations (read more here).

Commissioners Richard Tracey and Lynelle Briggs at the first hearing in Adelaide

Provider peak Aged & Community Services Australia CEO Pat Sparrow said she welcomed the opportunity for a national discussion to drive positive outcomes for older Australians and the aged care system.

Pat Sparrow

“The aged care sector does not fear scrutiny or accountability,” Ms Sparrow said in a statement on the eve of the hearing.

“We have zero tolerance for abuse and neglect where it occurs, and we are committed to continuous improvement to address problems as they arise,” she said.

Ms Sparrow said ACSA would make the case throughout the commission that caring for older Australians was a collective responsibility.

“The nation needs to have a hard conversation about the care we want to provide to older Australians, and what must be done to make that possible,” she said

Ian Yates

Chief executive of consumer peak COTA Australia, Ian Yates said too many of the disturbing and unacceptable revelations to surface in the public arena around the mistreatment or neglect of older Australians in aged care pointed to chronic systemic failures in our aged care sector.

“Our aged care system has been plagued with issues for many years, and we are looking forward to the Royal Commission addressing some of the key issues, including properly financing the sector, building and supporting a better skilled and compassionate workforce, improving medication management and restraint practices, and providing equitable access to mental health and palliative care services,” Mr Yates said.

Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Ken Wyatt said the royal commission was crucial to determining the full extent of problems in aged care and understanding the challenges and opportunities in delivering current and future quality and sustainable aged care services . 

Ken Wyatt

“It will go to the structural reforms required, identifying where we as a nation need to make further substantial changes,” Mr Wyatt said.

However, the government has made an early reform decision on the use of restraints in aged care.

Mr Wyatt announced last night that chemical and physical restraint in aged care homes would soon be better regulated.

“Incidents of over use of physical and chemical restraint will not be tolerated and draft changes to regulations are expected to be released within weeks,” Mr Wyatt said.

The announcement follows media reports this week including the ABC showing images of residents with dementia being strapped to chairs.

However, Mr Wyatt said the new measure was in response to extensive examination of this important issue over the past 18 months.

Both the Carnell and Paterson review of aged care regulation and the Australian Law Reform Commission inquiry into elder abuse  highlighted this issue and made recommendations for improvement.

Mr Wyatt said managing and minimising restraint was already a top priority for the new Chief Clinical Adviser at the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, which commenced operation on 1 January.

Details about the dates and locations of the public hearings of evidence from witnesses will be announced later this month.

The commission is required to submit an interim report by 31 October 2019 and the final report by 30 April 2020.

From the hearing

  • The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety sent out 1982 requests to approved providers to make an early submission including on instance of substandard care since 2013 in late November 2018. Only 83 providers have responded to date, despite the biggest 100 having a deadline of 7 January.
  • The royal commission has received over 300 submissions from members of the public in all states and territories to date since the process opened on 24 December.
  • Approximately 81 per cent of submissions received are in relation to the provision of residential aged care.
  • Commissioners Richard Tracey and Lynelle Briggs have the power to require individuals to provide information in a statement or in writing. This power is a first for any royal commission.
  • The first hearing where witnesses will give evidence is scheduled to commence on 11 February and continue in the week beginning 18 February in Adelaide.

This story was updated at 1pm and 6pm.

Related coverage

Commissioners outline vision for aged care inquiry

Witnesses to appear at royal commission from February

Commission to kick off hearings on 18 January

Providers asked to give a five-year history of poor instances of care

Aged care providers welcome royal commission

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7 Responses to Commissioners outline vision for aged care inquiry

  1. Carer January 18, 2019 at 10:43 am #

    I hope the Royal Commission also looks at My Aged Care and the impact it is having on the older member of the community being able to access the services they need to remain independent in their homes in their communities.

  2. Tony Schumacher-Jones January 18, 2019 at 1:29 pm #

    One question the Royal Commission may ask is this.

    Were the aged care peak bodies, for example Dementia Australia, LASA, in particular, aware of the degree of abuse and neglect and associated issues of care, that appear to be plaguing residential aged care?

    If they were aware then why did they do nothing? If they were not aware then what were they doing?

  3. Concerned January 18, 2019 at 4:03 pm #

    I think we need to remind everybody that not all aged care homes abuse or neglect the elderly. For a large majority of homes the care is good, the staff care for the elderly as they would their parents/grandparents.

    Often staff are so afraid of “Duty of Care” they think they have to try to protect the elderly from anything that may harm them, not realizing they are negatively effecting the person. Bring on the reforms, allow the elder person to take risks and don’t assume the elderly loose their rights just because they have dementia.

    The public also need to know staff do get abused by some people, some with cognitive or mental health problems, alcohol/drug abuse and/or people who believe their family member has no cognitive issues, but they do. The majority of staff could get more money packing shelves at supermarkets- so why do they stay in aged care?

    To the perpetrators of the abuse GET OUT OF AGED CARE, you give us all a bad name!

  4. Mr TA Fleming & Dr J Fleming January 18, 2019 at 4:16 pm #

    The Royal Commission into Aged Care offers a window of hope that the voices of elderly people and their carers in the community may be heard. The exceptional and compassionate efforts of many case managers and support workers who deliver services from community care packages needs to be acknowledged and adequately resourced.

    It was good to hear the PM recently announce an increase in the number of Community Aged Care Packages. We must acknowledge that in reality a ‘high’ (level 4) care package equates to a total of 15hours of services a week (ie. roughly providing 1.5 hours x 7days of personal care assistance to have a shower, dress and maybe make a cup of tea).

    If fortunate to already be receiving a low care package (while being the primary carer of your elderly partner for near 70 years) the waiting time to recieve an increase in services (at aged 92 and now a widower) from a low (level 2) care package can be 12months. Once listed as worthy of a high (level 4) care package you may no longer be eligible to utilise low care respite (day or overnight) and 24 hour in home respite can easily equate to over $500.

    The lack of transparency, accountability, regulation and increasingly burdensome bureaucracy of our aged care systems are extremely costly, both economically and socially. There is an ever increasing cost on social capital as a result of: diminishing quality of life and dignity, isolation and fear along with rapid declining health and wellbeing of many of our elderly citizens (as highlighted by the ABCs 7.30 Report) as well as the cost of carer stress, empathy fatigue, loss of income and careers for those of us who choose to be full time carers. These realities are poor reflections of our society.

    Australia’s elderly, their families and all our communities are worthy of living and ageing well. We encourage all to contribute their voice to this long overdue Inquiry. With gratitude and kindness.

  5. Brian Herd January 18, 2019 at 7:54 pm #

    Commissioner Tracey is certainly ‘measured’ at best and his presence and personality may not set the world alight but no doubt the evidence will.

  6. Dave January 19, 2019 at 9:03 am #

    Don’t expect sweeping reforms to emerge from this RC…most of the recommendations from the RC into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody are still sitting on the shelf from 30 years ago.

    From the outset this Commission has shown it has no idea about aged care…just look at the provider survey questions relating to sub-standard care. Didn’t anyone tell them that this is one of the sector’s main problems ?

    Nobody collects this type of data!

    The best chance of substantial reform will result from the public disgust at what they’re about to hear.

    Oh…and well done to all you peak bodies and providers. Your main focus since the RC was announced has been on engaging media consultants, legal teams, and forming ‘war rooms’. Shoulder to shoulder, united front, one voice, blah blah blah.

    It appears you have no intention of changing. (If your glossy brochures reflected reality you wouldn’t need a war room). Our sector is a disgrace…holding entire conferences on how to spin and obfuscate. You’re not even clever enough to do it quietly. Just know that the public is watching your antics with utter contempt.

    And it’s going to cost a fortune: a fortune that should have been spent on resident care.

    At least we’ll get to watch you squirm.

  7. Tony Schumacher-Jones January 19, 2019 at 11:52 am #

    Interesting comments above.

    We all hope that the Commission will advance ideas that seriously challenge the current way we do aged care and residential aged care in particular. And following on from their findings, we hope that successive governments will implement findings.

    But hope is a commodity in short supply in aged care.

    Since the early 1980s we have had about a dozen comprehensive reports and reviews on the industry. From the Mcleay report, the Ronald’s review (remember that one – it gave us the rights and responsibilities of residents in aged care) up until this point, we have heard lurid stories of maggots, and kerosene baths, and sexual assaults and people left on commodes for sometimes hours on end, and deaths due to over prescription of psychotropics and more assaults, and more neglect and appalling staff ratios and on and on ad infinitum.

    Why oh why does anyone actually think anything will be different this time.

    We are like an adolescent who thinks they are historically unique; who thinks that no-one has ever rebelled before, or fallen in love before; or experienced anything powerful before them.

    Each year we make New Years resolutions. To give up smoking, to loose weight, to spend more time exercising, reduce our alcohol intake.

    We never change. It’s what we do.

    Oh well, see you all in ten years time?

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