Whistleblowing and trialling CCTV cameras in aged care facilities are back in the news following evidence before the Perth sittings of the Royal Commission into Aged Care.
Japara Healthcare ran the Adelaide facility at the centre of abuse allegations made by the daughter of a resident. This case helped lead to the setting up of the royal commission. Four years ago, the daughter, Noleen Hausler, secretly installed a camera in her father’s room revealing three incidents of assault over 10 days.
Ms Hausler is now an advocate for mandatory cameras to protect residents who cannot defend themselves or raise the alarm against abuse.
National Seniors Australia Chief Advocate Ian Henschke and Ms Hausler both appeared on A Current Affair to discuss the issue.
National Seniors recently welcomed a $500,000 trial of CCTV cameras in five aged care facilities. If the trial proves successful, cameras could be installed in common areas with option of ‘opting in’ to have them installed in private areas.
When the trial was announced, the then Federal Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care, Ken Wyatt said that the community had been asking for this.
He went on to say the trial of CCTV cameras “will result in stronger protections for our elderly residents, reduced adverse incidents and improved standards of care."
Japara’s chief executive, Andrew Sudholz, told the commission his company was about to launch a small pilot program trialling CCTV cameras in the rooms of several residents at one of its facilities. In recounting her experience of alerting Japara to the abuse, Ms Hausler told the commission the company accused her of stalking facility management, which also tried to undermine her application to become her father’s guardian because they were concerned she would put a camera back in his room.
According to an ABC News report of Ms Hausler’s testimony, just two weeks after Mr Hausler died in early 2017, Mr Sudholz wrote an email to a staff member criticising Ms Hausler's persistent complaints about Japara.
Two months earlier, he had written to Japara board members about "the vexatious approach by Noleen Hausler and her activist group".
The company only reported two of the assaults after prompting by the Department of Health or a newspaper article weeks or months afterwards.
Commissioners Lynelle Briggs and Richard Tracey are looking at whether there are systemic issues of elder abuse in aged care facilities.
They were told on Monday that almost 300 mandatory reports of suspected assaults on the company's 4,000 residents by staff were made by the facility between September 2015 and May 2019.
But Mr Sudholz said that he believed fewer than 100 of these were substantiated.
"I think that's a small number," he said.
Mr Sudholz also apologised to Ms Hausler for the treatment of her father and herself.
The royal commission continues in Perth before holding sessions in Darwin 8-12 July and in Cairns 15-17 July.
You can learn more about National Seniors' contribution to the royal commission below.