MEDIA RELEASE: Senate’s Oakden inquiry report highlights the need for better protection for older Australians in residential care

Australia’s leading aged care consumer advocacy body, COTA Australia, today praised the Senate’s interim report into South Australia’s Oaken aged care facility for highlighting the urgent need to stamp out toxic cultures and systemic failures undermining the good work of the majority of the aged care sector.

COTA Chief Executive, Ian Yates said the Senate Community Reference Committee’s review into Oakden highlighted the need for more stringent accreditation practices and support for whistle-blowers to protect older Australians living in residential aged care centre.

“Today’s interim Senate report highlights the “toxic culture of wilful negligence and cover up” within the centre, the failure of regulatory authorities to pick-up poor practices, fear of recrimination against families or staff if complaints were made and the neglect of government agencies in acting on the concerns that were raised.

“It’s absolutely unacceptable that the catastrophic failures at Oaken would never have come to light without the persistence of the Oaken Families in drawing attention to situation. It’s beyond appalling that it took the death of Bob Spriggs for that to happen.

“Oakden had received Accreditation despite a long history of incidents at the centre demonstrating systemic failures that had to be urgently addressed. Alarmingly the Committee said it cannot be confident that there are not other aged care facilities where abuse and neglect are occurring elsewhere in Australia.”

Mr Yates said the Senate’s draft report, alongside findings from recent major reviews by Kate Carnell/Ron Paterson, and David Tune, highlights the need for urgent action to tighten accreditation requirements and change how residential aged care is regulated.

COTA Australia has repeatedly called for:

  • greater transparency around aged care accreditation and accreditation based in unannounced visits;
  • greater engagement with residents and families during the accreditation process, and more generally in the management of aged care;
  • strengthened and more transparent complaints processes; and
  • a consumer directed approach to residential age care that gives the right to bed licences to consumers rather than providers so they can easily move, and allows good providers to expand to meet consumer demand rather than having to go to poor providers

“The committee has done a good job in investigating what happened at Oaken and giving a voice to the families impacted by the neglect of their loved ones not just at Oaken but across Australia.

“In the past 12 months we have seen three separate inquiries into how to improve our whole aged care system– it’s time for the federal government to really start acting on the recommendations of these inquiries because as it stands older Australians are being let down, and in the case of Oaken, with tragic circumstances.”

“We welcome the Senate Committee’s decision to continue its inquiry beyond Oakden to the aged care system more broadly, while noting the need for coordination with a parallel House of Representatives inquiry.

Media contact: Ian Yates 0418 835 439; Jenny Stokes 0478 504 280

COTA Australia is the peak policy development, advocacy and representation organisation for older Australians, representing COTAs in every State and Territory and through them over 500,000 older Australians.