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Consumer advocates first up at royal commission


The nation’s leading consumer representatives will comprise the first witnesses at the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety when hearings open next week.

Ian Yates

COTA CEO Ian Yates and National Seniors CEO Professor John McCallum will give evidence from the perspective of aged care recipients at a public hearing in Adelaide on Monday, followed by Craig Gear, CEO of Older Persons Network (OPAN) the next day.

Mr Yates is expected to set the scene as the first high profile witness of the royal commission after evidence from consumers and family members. Professor McCallum is scheduled to appear at 3.15 pm (AEDT).  Mr Gear is slotted for 12 pm on Tuesday.

Next week’s hearings will run until Wednesday and resume for five days from Monday 18. It is understood that most witnesses have already had preliminary discussions over the phone with counsel assisting, as well as providing comprehensive witness statements, which will form the basis of their evidence.

Industry, medical, nursing and workforce perspectives will be heard during the second week of sittings, with AMA President Tony Bartone scheduled for February 20.

Director of Aged Care at Catholic Health Australia Nick Mersiades will give evidence on the transition from hospital to aged care and other issues contained in his 30-page witness statement, CEO Suzanne Greenwood told Community Care Review.

“It is fantastic that the royal commission is making time to talk to (Mr Mersiades),” she said.

Nick Mersiades

It is understood representatives from other industry peaks including ACSA CEO Pat Sparrow, LASA’s Sean Rooney, Aged Care Guild Matt Richter and Claerwen Little from Uniting Care Australia are slotted for the second week as well.

Unions representing health care workers, including the HSU and the Australian Nursing & Midwifery Federation (ANMF), will also be questioned.

HSU National Secretary Gerard Hayes, scheduled to appear on February 21, told Community Care Review he would outline aged care workforce issues including outsourcing of labour, worker exploitation, cost shifting, staff shortages and training.

“Lack of funding underpins every problem that we see in the aged care sector,” he said.

Annie Butler, recently re-elected as ANMF Federal Secretary, will also give evidence, a spokesman confirmed.

At a preliminary hearing last month, joint commissioners Lynelle Briggs and Richard Tracey outlined the powers of the royal commission and warned providers about preventing whistleblowers from speaking out.

“We would be gravely concerned if any operators in the aged care sector or government bodies were to instruct their staff not to talk to the royal commission or to withhold information from us,” Mr Tracey told the January 18 hearing.

He said if necessary, commissioners could exercise powers of compulsion to secure any information that may inform the inquiry.

The next three days of hearings will begin at 10 am on February 11-13 at the Roma Mitchell Commonwealth Law Courts. The second week of hearings runs from February 18-22 at the same location.

It is anticipated subsequent hearings will take place in the weeks commencing  March 18, April 29, May 6 and 13, June 17 and 24, July 8, 15 and 29, August 5, September 9, October 8 and 14, November 4 and 11, and December 9.

The location of each hearing will be announced as arrangements are finalised.

Over the next two weeks the commission will hear about:

  • Concerns of advocacy groups about the current state of the aged care system
  • Clinical issues affecting aged people
  • Concerns and view of medical and nursing professional bodies
  • Demographic information relation to the provision of services
  • Perspectives of workforce representative bodies
  • Experiences of people receiving services

An interim report is due by October 31 with a final report due by the end of April 2020.

The royal commission will accept submissions until at least the end of June.

To stay up to date on the latest about the Royal Commission into Aged Care and Quality go to our special coverage. We will also be issuing regular Royal Commission Roundup reports which you’ll receive in addition to your weekly e-newsletters.

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3 Responses to Consumer advocates first up at royal commission

  1. Tom February 8, 2019 at 12:51 pm #

    The comment ‘lack of funding underpins…’, is in my opinion misguided/misleading. Government cannot afford the funding level required of it by the aged care support and other social support initiatives, most of which are well meaning. The problem is a pervading attitude in our society of entitlement. Australians who can afford to must expect and be willing to make higher contributions for care needs than those who find themselves on basic income levels. Approaching the funding of care, such as in programmes like VHC or CHSP, from a ‘one cost fits all’ model is not fair!

  2. Lesley F February 8, 2019 at 1:45 pm #

    Consumer advocates don’t appear to have much influence on nursing home management. Will their role be given more weight by the commission?

  3. Liz B February 8, 2019 at 4:56 pm #

    I would hope so but it depends on the Commissioners and the parameters set for the Royal Commission by a government which has hitherto chosen to ignore all for fear of the cost of genuine reform.

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