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Oakden whistleblower says worse stories still to come: Royal Commission

Some ugly truths about abuse across Australia’s aged care industry will be revealed during the federal government’s royal commission into the sector, one of the Oakden whistleblowers says.

The inquiry will hold its first public hearing in Adelaide on Friday as it begins its investigation of the quality of care across the country.

It was sparked in part by the shocking abuse of residents with dementia at the Oakden nursing home in Adelaide, which the South Australian Independent Commissioner Against Corruption described as a “shameful chapter in the state’s history”.

Investigations into the state-run home found failures in clinical governance as well as incidents of rough handling of residents, excessive use of restraints and a high level of injuries.

Stewart Johnston, whose mother Helen was a former Oakden resident, said even more shocking abuse was likely to be revealed across aged care industry as witnesses told of their experiences.

“I’ve been privy to some horrendous stories, and that’s continued for the past two years,” Johnston said. “I know for a fact we haven’t heard the worst yet.

“Our nation has turned a blind eye to this for decades but the conversation and focus is now on this sector.”

The commission will be based in Adelaide but will hold public hearings across the country.

Its terms of reference require it to look at the extent of below-par aged care, and how to improve services for disabled residents, including young people.

When details were announced Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia should brace for some “difficult stories” but believed the investigation could rebuild trust.

“The royal commission will be the first step in re-establishing the trust that loved ones will be treated with dignity and with respect,” Mr Morrison said.

Johnston said exactly what might flow from the inquiry was the “million-dollar question” but he hoped it might result in greater awareness of what had occurred and what needed to change.

“My hope is that we end up with a culture change in this country that respects our elders and assists them with care,” he said.

“Where care is the operative word and it’s not motivated by money and profit.”

The aged care industry is supportive of the commission, describing the issue as one of national importance, but believes the vast majority of Australia’s aged care services and their staff deliver outstanding care.

“We all want a safe, high quality and high performing aged care system,” Leading Age Services Australia chief executive Sean Rooney said. “Older Australians need it and older Australians deserve nothing less.”

The royal commission will release an interim report by October 31 next year, with a final report due on April 30, 2020.

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One comment

  1. Looking forward to results of Royal Commission into aged care. It was hard to look at the 7.30 report ABC where people are shackled for long periods. People need to go to toilet be feed clean teeth etc. who are attending to these basic needs. Nearly always the excuse is short staffed, and untrained staff to care for dementia patients. Drugging patients should be looked at better by the doctors who are prescribing the drugs. Not always are doctors competent when prescribing drugs and looking after patients. General nursing care needs to be looked as this is the main requirement for these patients and lots of TLC. I myself hope I never have to go to a nursing home and can be independent till I die.

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