Thursday, 10 February 2022
Questions without Notice
Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services
My question is to the Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services, Senator Colbeck. Last week, a 79-year-old woman who had waited 3½ hours for her pain medication to be provided at the Jeta Gardens nursing home ended up throwing herself off a third-floor balcony. She broke her leg and multiple other bones. The incident report lists neglect as a contributing factor. Only a registered nurse can deliver pain drugs, and, on that day, there was only one nurse rostered for more than 160 residents.
Minister, all week I have been asking you about the Jeta Gardens nursing home, about which you were warned twice by your own regulator. Why are older Australians in residential aged care still being neglected by this minister in his aged-care system?
I am aware of reports of the serious incident that occurred at Jeta Gardens. Until the circumstances of the serious incident have been investigated by the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, to whom they were appropriately reported, I'm not going to make judgements like Senator Watt, who has already tweeted that he thinks he knows exactly what happened and why.
I will take the interjection because that's a complete absurdity. The Serious Incident Response Scheme, introduced by this government, has been designed specifically to properly investigate serious incidents and then report them—and report them publicly. So I reject any assertion from the opposition that we are seeking to cover this up. We have a legislative process that this government put in place to investigate those incidents appropriately and then report them—and report them publicly. That's what we will do. I'm not going to presume here in this place, before the investigation has been completed, and then appropriately reported, as to the cause of it in the way that Senator Watt has. I think it's an absolute disgrace that he comes in here to make those sorts of assertions without the appropriate process to investigate what's going on. I am as concerned as Senator Watt is about the event that occurred at Jeta Gardens. I'm as concerned as anybody. We all are. Those sorts of circumstances should not be occurring in our aged-care facilities. That's why we have over $18 billion on the table, in a five-year reform package, when the Labor Party has absolutely nothing.
While this minister went to the cricket, Jeta Gardens resident Ruth was in lockdown and hadn't seen her family since December. They did not know she had COVID until she was on her deathbed, and were robbed of the opportunity to spend time with her in her final days. How many neglected older Australians and their families have been robbed of their final days and moments under this minister's care?
I would point out that all residents of residential aged care in Australia are under the care of the approved provider where they are living. As I have acknowledged here before, the Australian government is responsible for the approving of approved providers and also the regulation, and predominantly the funding, of residential aged-care providers. All through the pandemic, it has been my view and the government's view that visitor access to residents is very important. It was raised by the royal commission in their special COVID-19 report. The AHPPC put some advice out to the sector about it. And I'm very pleased to say that the sector has come around to the same point of view. But, of course, the actions of the opposition are making it harder to let people into residential aged-care facilities. (Time expired)
The idea that this minister could blame the opposition for his problems is beyond belief—but anyway. Virginia's 85-year-old father, a Jeta Gardens resident who has dementia and COVID-19, is locked in his room. He is disorientated and thinks he has been abandoned. The aged-care home isn't communicating with his family—an aged-care home this minister was warned about. How bad does the neglect of older Australians need to be before this minister resigns?
The aged-care facility should be communicating with his family. That's what my expectation is and that's the expectation of the government. The aged-care facility has a responsibility to communicate. The regulator has taken regulatory action against the facility, and part of that process is the requirement for them to employ a special supervisor into the facility to ensure that the functions of the facility are occurring as they should be. That's been done. In fact, there is a team of people who are working in that facility to do that.
As has been discussed in the chamber, a series of regulatory actions have been taken against this facility over the last 12 months. My expectation and the government's expectation is that the provider will bring the facility back to the clients. That is what the provider should do. If they can't, the opportunity to remove their approved provider status exists.