Unexplained bruises on the legs of Bob Spriggs, who died while a patient at Oakden. (Supplied: Barb Spriggs)
A senate inquiry into the Oakden nursing home scandal in South Australia has criticised the time it took state and federal authorities to respond, claiming elder abuse and neglect were allowed to continue even after residents’ concerns were raised with health authorities.
The facility in Adelaide’s north-east was shut last year in the wake of a damning report by South Australia’s chief psychiatrist, and the senate inquiry is one of several investigations into events at the home.
The scandal is currently the subject of a probe by the state’s Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Bruce Lander, who is due to release his findings within the next fortnight.
Several incidents at the home have been referred to police, and a coronial inquiry into the 2008 death of a resident is already underway, while others are expected.
The senate inquiry chaired by Greens MP Rachel Siewert began last year and heard evidence from families and health officials.
“What is of deep concern to the committee is the length of time it took for the SA Government and Australian Government to respond to the concerns of residents, their families and whistle blower staff who had been raising issues for many years to no effect,” the interim report stated.
“Many subsequent instances of abuse and neglect occurred as a direct result of those with the oversight responsibility not acting earlier.”
Concerns about Oakden were made public last year, when the family of Bob Spriggs — who died when he was a patient at the home — came forward to describe his treatment.
Mr Spriggs was admitted suffering from multiple illnesses including Parkinson’s disease.
He was given 10 times the amount of his prescribed medication and left with unexplained bruises before his death.
The family of Oakden patient Bob Spriggs blew the whistle about the facility. (Supplied: Barb Spriggs)
The senate inquiry’s report confirmed “that poor or inappropriate training” and a “culture of fear, silence and cover-up among staff” contributed to the mistreatment of residents.
“Most of all, the committee is deeply concerned that warning signs in relation to resident health were not heeded, such as unexplained bruising, medication mismanagement and falls, and that complaints from family members and community advocates were ignored.”
The report made two recommendations — including that “all dementia-BOOKr.VIP and other mental health services being delivered in an aged care context must be correctly classified as health services, not aged care services”.
“[They] must therefore be regulated by the appropriate health quality standards and accreditation processes.”
It also recommended the inquiry be extended to consider the effectiveness of “Aged Care Quality Assessment and accreditation framework for protecting residents from abuse and poor practices, and ensuring proper clinical and medical care standards are maintained and practised”.
SA Best leader and former senator Nick Xenophon helped initiate the inquiry.
“The sequence of events and the timeframes provided by witnesses and families indicates that the response to the Spriggs’ family complaint by the SA Government took an unacceptable six months and that was only after media attention,” he said.
“The system at Oakden was so badly broken long before the Spriggs family issues were raised.
“The SA Labor Government did not even have the respect for the Australian Quality Agency to formally notify them of the issues identified.”
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