Culture of secrecy protects aged-care providers
The shocking truth about assaults in Australia's aged-care homes has been hidden by a culture of secrecy which is now a focus of the royal commission into the industry.
There were more than 3700 assaults in aged-care facilities in 2017-18, but little is known about where they occurred and what, if anything, changed in response.
One reason is that the Aged Care Act contains a secrecy provision that protects operators.
More than 80 per cent of Australians are concerned the government does not allow them to know details of nursing-home mistreatment, according to a survey released this week by the Right to Know coalition of media organisations as part of a major new campaign.
Top aged-care advocates expect the royal commission will recommend reforms to increase transparency over complaints, neglect and assaults.
The Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association is pushing for a rewrite of the Aged Care Act's Division 86, which provides blanket protection for providers' information.
A regular person had little chance of identifying high-risk nursing homes, the CPSA said, because the only way to find out about complaints, neglect and assaults if it was volunteered. "Otherwise they've got Buckley's," policy manager Paul Versteege said yesterday.
The royal commission is due to submit an interim report to the government next week, but Councils on the Ageing CEO Ian Yates said the industry should not need to be told to be more open.
"Why don't they just get out there and do it?" Mr Yates, who is on the government's Aged Care Quality and Safety Advisory Council, said.
"And if they won't the government doesn't have to wait; it can get on the front foot."
Opposition aged care spokeswoman Ged Kearney said the sector was in "dire need of accountability and transparency reforms".
"Labor is deeply concerned, yet not at all surprised, that the government is keen to hide information about aged-care complaints," Ms Kearney, who is a trained nurse, said.
"The system is at crisis point and it's a national shame that secrecy provisions have prevented journalists telling important stories about failures in aged care."
Aged Rights Advocacy Service CEO Carolanne Barkla, who is also on the ACQS Advisory Council, said it expected the royal commission to recommend increased transparency of data on assaults, such as the number and types, as well as the use of restraints.
Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck said the government had brought in new measures to improve transparency, including making public any breaches of the new Aged Care Quality Standards.