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A shocking tale of non-compliance

Just like both the interim and final reports of the Royal Commission into the Financial Services sector, the Royal Commission into Aged Care has laid bare a wholistic view of systemic failures within the aged care system.

Unlike the financial services sector, however, failures in a consumer-centric approach to aged care have much more immediate and detrimental effect on some of our most vulnerable Australians.

According to the three-volume interim report, “The neglect we have found in this Royal Commission, to date, is far from the best that can be done. Rather, it is a sad and shocking system that diminishes Australia as a nation.”

Even the report’s foreword identifies issues in the current aged care system, which “…lacks transparency in communication, reporting and accountability. It is not built around the people it is supposed to help and support but around funding mechanisms, processes and procedures. This, too, must change.”

The foreword continues with evidence of mistreatment in the aged care system and areas of critical failure the authors of the report state need to be addressed:

The major quality and safety issues which have been brought to our attention during this Royal Commission are:

  • inadequate prevention and management of wounds, sometimes leading to septicaemia and death

  • poor continence management—many aged care residences don’t encourage toilet use or strictly ration continence pads, often leaving distressed residents sitting or lying in urine or faeces

  • dreadful food, nutrition and hydration, and insufficient attention to oral health, leading to widespread malnutrition, excruciating dental and other pain, and secondary conditions

  • a high incidence of assaults by staff on residents and by residents on other residents and on staff

  • common use of physical restraint on residents, not so much for their safety or wellbeing but to make them easier to manage

  • widespread overprescribing, often without clear consent, of drugs which sedate residents, rendering them drowsy and unresponsive to visiting family and removing their ability to interact with people

  • patchy and fragmented palliative care for residents who are dying, creating unnecessary distress for both the dying person and their family.

According to the official statement, the commissioners highlighted three critical areas that need immediate remedy:

  • to provide more Home Care Packages to reduce the waiting list for higher level care at home

  • to respond to the significant over-reliance on chemical restraint in aged care, including through the seventh Community Pharmacy Agreement

  • to stop the flow of younger people with a disability going into aged care, and speed up the process of getting out those young people who are already in aged care.

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