Australia aged care scandals sparks national probe

Published September 16, 2018, 1:41 PM

by iManila Developer

By Agence France-Presse

Australia will launch a national inquiry into its scandal-plagued aged care sector, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Sunday, following numerous reports of abuse, neglect and mismanagement.

CORRECTION Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison announces at a press conference in Sydney on July 25, 2014, that a group of 157 asylum-seekers in custody on the high seas for weeks will be taken to Australia and held until consular officials confirm their nationalities.  The development follows lawyers acting for about one-third of those on board -- thought to be mostly minority ethnic Tamils from Sri Lanka -- taking their case to the High Court.  AFP PHOTO/William WEST
Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison (AFP PHOTO/William WEST/FILE/MANILA BULLETIN)

The announcement comes a year after a state-run dementia nursing home in South Australia state was shut when an investigation revealed horrific mistreatment of elderly residents over a 10-year period.

Since that scandal, the health department has closed almost one aged care service each month, while a growing number are failing to meet standards, Morrison said in a statement.

“Incidences of older people being hurt by failures of care simply cannot be explained or excused,” he added.

“We must be assured about how widespread these cases are… there clearly remains areas of concern with regard to the quality and safety of aged care services.”

The inquiry will probe profit and non-for-profit organizations, and also look at the care given to younger Australians with disabilities living in such facilities.

There has been a 177 percent leap in the number of aged-care homes where a “serious risk” to residents were identified in the 2017-18 financial year, according to government data released to Sydney’s Sunday Telegraph.

The figures also show a 292 percent increase in the number of facilities that were falling significantly short of government regulations.

The prime minister said the royal commission would be critical in guiding how Australia copes with caring for its growing elderly population.

Demand for services is expected to surge as the “baby boomer” generation born after World War II swells the ranks of retirees.

Canberra funding for aged care is already at record levels, reaching Aus$18.6 billion ($13.3 billion) in 2017-18. The government expects it to grow in the next five years by a further Aus$5 billion.

Around one in seven Australians are aged 65 and above, according to 2017 government data, with the proportion of elderly people tipped to reach 22 percent of the population by 2057.

A damning 146-page report released in February cataloged numerous complaints of abuse and neglect at aged care facilities.

Some of the worst cases raised included a 70-year-old attacked and killed by another elderly resident, the use of restraints, overdosing of patients and the indecent assault of a 99-year-old woman by a male carer.

Earlier this month a carer in Sydney was charged after allegedly assaulting an elderly man by pulling his shirt and hitting him repeatedly with a shoe.