26 August 2019

Case studies employed to devastating effect by Royal Commission

Management and regulatory failures in aged care are brought into sharp relief by the strategic decision of the Royal Commission to focus on case studies.  This Commission hallmark has proven a powerful investigative tool for revealing in microscopic detail the disturbing realities of daily events in our nursing homes.

Watching regulators dissemble and equivocate when asked, for example, about the adequacy of staffing in the face of monstrous lapses in health care, is revelatory.  Yet perhaps this is understandable.  To concede deficiencies in clinical staff numbers or skills would be to undermine the decades-old mantra of motherhood statements about staffing and so trash the credibility of many an audit report.

The case of physical assault on a resident at Japara Mitcham nursing home in Adelaide, revealed by hidden camera, exposed a management concerned with corporate image at all costs as five managers were grilled on the witness stand.

The case of Earle Haven on the Gold Coast involved a ‘mass casualty scenario’. The emergency evacuation of residents was sparked by a sub-contracted management company withdrawing care services in pre-emptory fashion.  A disturbing history of non-compliance by the approved provider (People Care) emerged, along with a silo mentality in managing provider transgressions within the Department of Health.  In its submission to the Royal Commission, Elder Care Watch advocates the adoption of an integrated sanctions regime built around fines and demerit points as a counter to this current fragmented approach.

The Avondrust (MiCare) case in Carrum Downs, Victoria exposed the absurdity of computer assisted audit report writing with Commissioner Tracey referring to “slabs of identical language” and Commissioner Briggs regarding it as unprecedented in her decades of public service.

We all should be feeling thankful for this Royal Commission not least the relatives who have been traumatised by the avoidable suffering of their loved ones.