‘Tale of neglect’: Aged care royal commission delivers damning report

Doug Hendrie

1/11/2019 2:56:55 PM

Australia is failing its elderly, with the interim report into aged care branding the sector a ‘sad and shocking system that diminishes Australia as a nation’.

aged care residents
The royal commission’s interim report pulls no punches in its assessment of the aged care sector in Australia.

The commissioners tasked with examining the aged care system, Richard Tracey QC – who died after the report was finalised – and Lynelle Briggs AO, described what they found as a ‘tale of neglect’.
‘It is a sad and shocking system that diminishes Australia as a nation,’ they wrote.
‘The Secretary of the Australian Department of Health told the royal commission that, “based on the evidence and information available to the Department … serious instances of substandard care do not appear to be widespread or frequent”.
‘We beg to differ.
‘We have heard evidence which suggests that the regulatory regime that is intended to ensure safety and quality of services is unfit for purpose and does not adequately deter poor practices.  Indeed, it often fails to detect them. When it does so, remedial action is frequently ineffective.
‘The regulatory regime appears to do little to encourage better practice beyond a minimum standard.’
The report singled out the use of chemical restraints for particular criticism, describing their use as ‘inhumane, abusive and unjustified’.
However, RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon has previously called for perspective on the use of psychotropic medication, which he described as a last resort.
The report found greater funding is needed to allow older people to stay in their own homes for longer.
‘By any measure, this is a cruel and discriminatory system, which places great strain on older Australians and their relatives,’ the report states.
‘It is shocking that the express wishes of older people to remain in their own homes for as long as possible, with the supports they need, is downplayed with an expectation that they will manage.
‘It is unsafe practice. It is neglect.’
The commissioners did acknowledge the ‘many dedicated people currently providing aged care services’.
The report also focused on a workforce ‘under pressure and under-appreciated and that lacks key skills’.
Tabled in Parliament on Thursday 31 October, the interim report – titled simply Neglect – called for a total overhaul of the way aged care is designed, regulated and funded.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison labelled the report ‘shocking, disturbing and heartbreaking’ and called for a ‘new culture of respect’ for older Australians. He has promised additional aged care funding will be made available before the end of the year.
Federal Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck said the Government will ‘carefully consider the findings’.
‘The interim report and the royal commission’s hearings to date tell us some aged care providers are falling far short of delivering the safe, high-quality care expected by senior Australians and their loved ones,’ he said in a statement.
‘At the same time, it is also clear there are many aged care providers and workers who are delivering outstanding care.’
Over the course of the 10-month inquiry, the Commission heard of people in aged care left to sit in their own faeces, stories of abuse and neglect, a culture of apathy about known failings, and a system lacking transparency.
In the first volume of the report, the commissioners say the ‘cruel and harmful system’ must be changed.
‘We owe it to our parents, our grandparents, our partners, our friends. We owe it to strangers. We owe it to future generations. Older people deserve so much more,’ the report states.

What can be done?
The report states three immediate actions can be taken:

  • More Home Care Packages to reduce long waiting lists for higher level care at home
  • Tackle the overreliance on the controversial practice of chemical restraints
  • Stem the flow of young people with a disability living in aged care, and move those in the system out
Prime Minister told 3AW Radio the Federal Government will address those three urgent priorities by the end of the year.
The report also notes that despite more than 35 major public reviews into the aged care system over the last four decades, and many more internal reviews, ‘instances of substandard care recur at distressingly frequent intervals’.
Professor Joseph Ibrahim, head of the Health Law and Ageing Research Unit at Monash University, told the ABC the report raises questions around why no action had been taken previously.
‘This royal commission is the first time that older Australians in residential aged care have someone with strong advocacy skills that is standing up for them,’ he said.

abuse aged care chemical restraint older Australians

newsGP weekly poll Which of the below incentive amounts (paid annually) would be sufficient to encourage you to provide eight consultations and two care plans to a residential aged care patient per year?

newsGP weekly poll Which of the below incentive amounts (paid annually) would be sufficient to encourage you to provide eight consultations and two care plans to a residential aged care patient per year?



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Dr Vladimir Koleda   2/11/2019 10:06:06 AM

The following observations are based on placing my mother age 93 in a nursing home
against her expressed wishes.

She would prefer to live in her own home in a substandard environment
refusing to wash herself or change her clothes,loosing weight because of poor feeding. She has poor eyesight and hearing. She is incontinent and has recurrent urinary tract infections. She has recurrent falls and and and has fractured both femurs on separate occasions. This is despite a maximum home support package
and strong family support.

2 The Nursing home living for her is first class with air conditioning,her own private room, full nursing care 24 hours day,access to medical treatment,clean environment
bedding changed daily,her family visit daily. No visitor could consider that she is

The inquiry did not address the safety of workers with aggressive patients.

Treatment by doctors for diagnosed conditions is not chemical restraint.