“Oakden must never happen again” says peak body for older South Australians, COTA SA

COTA SA says the 13 recommendations outlined in the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption (ICAC) report today regarding the maladministration at Oakden aged care facility is a significant step forward in protecting our most vulnerable older South Australians.

The inquiry, led by Commissioner Hon. Bruce Lander QC, investigated claims of widespread abuse neglect, poor practice and archaic conditions suffered by residents in the care of the Oakden Older Persons Mental Health Facility over the past decade.

COTA SA Chief Executive Jane Mussared says the findings handed down today demonstrate failures at just about every level.

"What happened at Oakden is nothing short of a tragedy and the release of this report again confirms that. The way we care for vulnerable and disempowered older citizens is a true measure of our society. The abuse, neglect, poor practices and appalling conditions suffered by residents of Oakden will forever be a shameful blight on our state's history," Ms Mussared said.

"It's hard to comprehend how such systemic abuse could go on for as long as it did without intervention and despite families repeatedly raising the alarm.

"But, as the report acknowledges, simply closing the door on Oakden leaves open the very real possibility that similar failures could be perpetuated in the future in other settings. We cannot allow that to happen.

"We must use the lessons of Oakden to ensure that our services for vulnerable older people work with, not against, families, that governance and accountability is clear, that they follow best practice, that they are staffed by our very best people and that they are places of safety and care.

"Our accreditation systems need to be more robust to ensure families can be 100% confident in the care of their loved ones. Oakden, during the time of the scandal, got full marks, and this put a question mark over the credibility of the accreditation system that's designed to protect us and that we all rely upon as a measure of quality."

Ms Mussared says she salutes the families who, against the odds, stuck to their convictions and made sure their voices and concerns were heard. "A further shame of Oakden is that it casts a shadow over the many very good aged care workers who do a wonderful job every day. But Oakden should serve as a terrible example of what can go wrong and why it's up to all of those with an opportunity to do so, to be vigilant, to speak out and to report anything you see or hear that doesn't feel quite right."

Ms Mussared says since the publication of The Closing the Gap report in 2011, there have been several very serious incidents including at accredited aged care facilities like Oakden, suggesting a review and repair of the holes in the legislative safeguards, redress and services available are urgently required.

"We need to put everything on the table, from the models of care, the culture, staff competency, governance and accreditation. Top-­down failures mean we need to rebuilt from the ground up and the time is now," she said.

"We are advocating for a more comprehensive approach, particularly given legislative change is likely to take some time. The State Government must develop and implement a coordinated response framework, informed by a clear human rights perspective."

Protecting older people from abuse is one of a number of key issues and recommendations outlined in COTA SA's 2018 State Election Platform. Recommendations include undertake legislative reform that enables a consistent, coordinated response to investigate and respond to the abuse and harm of adults (including older people) in vulnerable situations and working with other states and territories to establish a national framework on elder abuse including a focus on data collection around prevalence.

Anyone with concerns about people in care can contact the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner, the Aged Rights Advocacy Service, SA Police and the Health and Community Services Complaints Commissioner or the South Australian Elder Abuse Prevention Phone Line on 1800 372 310.

COTA SA is an older people's movement run by, for and with older people. COTA SA represents the aspirations, interests and rights of 633,000 older South Australians.

Further information about COTA SA can be found at www.cotasa.org.au.

For all interview requests please contact:

Silvia Knoppien - silvia@communikate.net.au | 0467 043 173
Bec Tape - rtape@communikate.net.au | 0438 806 983

Download a copy of the media release