Departmental officers and agency assessors investigating infectious outbreaks in nursing homes will be required to check on residents as well as examining documentation and meeting with management, the Minister for Ageing, Justine Elliot told Parliament.

Under revised guidelines, nurses investigating concerns about clinical care will be given more specific guidance to identify and act on gaps in care

The new guidelines were a key recommendation in a nine-month old report prepared by Rhonda Parker in response to the outbreak at the Broughton Hall facility last April

The report was commissioned by the former Minister for Ageing, Christopher Pyne, in response to an allegation that departmental staff and agency assessors ignored calls for help from a resident when they were inspecting the outbreak.

The resident, Mr Merson Dunstan, was among five Broughton Hall residents who died following the outbreak.

Ms Parker said in the report that the allegation against the department and agency staff members was not substantiated by the evidence, but she did find that “during the course of the investigation an apparent gap in protocols came to light”.

Mrs Elliot criticised the Howard Government for failing to release Ms Parker’s report or provide it to Mr Dunstan’s family, when she tabled a summary investigation of the report in Parliament yesterday (Monday).

“[Ms Parker’s recommendation] is a very sensible recommendation and I do not see why the previous government did not act on it,” she said.

But Mr Pyne defended his handling of the report.

“I referred it to the Aged Care Standards and Accreditation Agency to implement the administrative matters in that report that would have assisted in further investigations into the future, and those parts of the report that were germane to the Department of Health and Ageing, which I was a part of, I asked to be implemented,” he said.

The Minister said she had delivered the summary investigation to Mr Dunstan’s family.  

“I also took the opportunity to apologise for the previous Government’s and the previous Minister’s failure to provide any information to the Dunstan family,” she said.

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