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Aged-care watchdog sacked in abuse scandal fallout

The national aged-care watchdog will be shutdown and replaced after it failed to detect and act on shocking cases of inadequate care, abuse and neglect.

The decision to establish a new aged-care watchdog was made by the federal government, following the release this week of a scathing report that found older people were at continued risk of harm because the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency could not be trusted to act.

The catalyst for change was a series of harrowing inquiries, including one by the federal government, into the Oakden home in South Australia, which investigated both the accreditation and complaints systems after a decade of mistreatment and mis-medication of residents at the home, as well as a sexual assault by a carer and a murder by a resident.

An interim senate inquiry report this week revealed the committee was concerned about the watchdog's “repeated refusal to take responsibility for what occurred at Oakden”.

Federal Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt commissioned an independent review of the nation’s aged-care audit system by former ACT chief minister Kate Carnell last year following the revelations about treatment at Oakden.

It's understood the new watchdog will mirror recommendations made by Ms Carnell for an independent Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission with centralised accreditation, compliance and complaints handling.

Lynda Saltarelli, from advocacy group Aged Care Crisis, welcomed the decision to dismantle the Quality Agency, but said any new model must be underpinned by transparency.

"We urge government to include a local and empowered oversight component closely tied to the community, which would identify and address problems much sooner," she said.

"Aged Care is one of the most vulnerable of all markets and residents must be protected. This cannot be managed via occasional visits."

The Age also reported allegations of misconduct in Victorian aged care facilities last year.

The Allambee Nursing Home in the Melbourne suburb of Cheltenham was accused of mistreatment and abuse and likened to "Guantanamo bay" by a family member of a former patient.

Mr Wyatt said the decision was part of an overhaul to ensure the abuse and neglect that occurred in South Australia never happened again.

He said the government was pushing ahead with a key recommendation to establish the commission amid fears the conditions found at Oakden were widespread.

“The health, safety and wellbeing of senior Australians in aged care is non-negotiable," he told Adelaide's The Advertiser on Wednesday.

“What happened inside Oakden was shocking and I am doing everything in my power to ensure the situation is never repeated.”

Mr Wyatt acknowledged last year that the Australian aged care system lacked transparency.

Unlike in the US, where a nursing home's failings, complaints and negative findings are published and searchable online, Australian consumers must rely on advertising and bureaucratic government reporting.

The fallout has also prompted a House of Representatives committee to open a national inquiry into aged-care homes across the country. Submissions for the inquiry are now open.

 

 

source: The Age

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