Thursday, 25 February 2021
Questions without Notice
Sadly, my question is to the Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services, Senator Colbeck. Two days before Christmas last year, Lea received a call from her 86-year-old father's aged-care home, Regis Nedlands in Perth, telling her he was in an ambulance to the hospital. Her father, Brian Hunter, was:
… slumped over in the bed, and his back was exposed. I could see his back was really terribly burnt, his whole back was burned. And he was not speaking to us. He was semi in and out of consciousness.
Brian, a double amputee who had lost both legs due to diabetes, had been left out on a rooftop terrace, on a 40-degree day, for two hours. Nobody noticed he was missing for two hours. Brian tragically died on 20 January this year, more than 12 months after the royal commission's interim report entitled Neglect. Minister, how is this neglect continuing on your watch?
I thank Senator Sterle for his question. We are all very disturbed by any circumstance of poor treatment, poor care, of any resident in an aged-care facility in this country.
It should not keep happening, to your point, Senator Watt. It should not keep happening. I will be very cautious with respect to the allegations that are currently being aired with respect to Regis, because I know that there are a number of investigations that are being undertaken with respect to the allegations that apply to this particular facility. I've had quite a number of briefings with respect to this from the quality commission and my department, and I've also had a number of conversations elsewhere with respect to this matter. I am very concerned that these allegations have come to light. There is a coroner's review that's underway. There has been a police investigation that has found no circumstance of criminality with respect to the allegations that are currently being aired in relation to Regis. And of course the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission has issued both a sanction and a notice to agree against Regis Nedlands with respect to the allegations that are being raised. All of these allegations are very, very concerning. The government members, on this side, are just as concerned as anyone in any other part of the chamber. We all remain concerned. We are concerned for the families and the circumstances that they find themselves in and we would like to get to the bottom of this matter as much as anybody.
The day after Brian's hospitalisation, the hospital reported Regis to the Morrison government's regulator, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission. Nobody visited Regis Nedlands until 11 January, three weeks later. When did the minister first become aware of Brian's tragic death and what action has he taken to ensure this neglect never, ever happens again?
In relation to the specific date that I became aware of the resident's death, I can't give you that specifically but I'm happy to provide that information to the chamber. But, as I've said, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission has issued both a sanction and a notice to agree on Regis Nedlands. That is an appropriate process.
An opposition senator interjecting—
Senator, I will take your interjection. You are right. It should not have occurred in the first place.
An opposition senator: You had a royal commission report.
That's why we called the royal commission. That's why one of the first acts of Prime Minister Morrison was to call a royal commission to undertake a forensic review of the aged-care sector so that we could put in place the reforms that will stop these sorts of events and lift the entire sector so that we do have a better, world-class aged-care system in this country.
Regis Nedlands had been sanctioned in November 2019, 14 months before Brian died, for putting the safety and health of residents at risk. How many more older Australians will tragically die because of the ongoing neglect in the Morrison government's aged-care system?
Unfortunately, what Senator Sterle has done is neglect to advise the chamber of other assessments of this organisation, who—you're correct—did receive a sanction at that point in time but were subsequently assessed to be compliant with the standards. So they had had a problem, they'd put in place corrective action to fix it, and they were subsequently assessed. A sanction is not a life sentence. It is a process to improve the capacity of the service. That's what I expect. That's what all of us expect should occur. And that's what I expect from Regis in the context of the circumstances that are occurring right now.
Regis are currently under both a sanction and a notice to agree, and both of those tools are designed to improve the quality of service at the facility, and that is what I expect.