The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety has been extended by a further six months.
The government agreed to the extension so the commission could hear from more witnesses and allow it greater time conduct its deliberations.
In announcing the extension, the Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians, Senator Richard Colbeck said, “It is important that our aged care sector continues to provide high quality care and that we understand where we can make improvements.”
While we welcome any opportunity to delve deeper into the adequacy or lack thereof in the sector, there is concern that delaying the royal commission will delay the urgent action needed to address issues raised - both inside the commission and outside.
This includes the issues exposed recently by News Corp and the ABC relating to aged care provider, Bupa.
The Daily Telegraph reported that Bupa had failed in basic care standards such as hygiene and food at half of its facilities in NSW.
One of the worst cases reported was that of cancer patient John Callaghan.
His family says he was found with maggots in his ear because of an exposed wound which had not been treated properly at a Bupa facility on the Gold Coast.
National Seniors Australia CEO, Professor John McCallum wrote an opinion piece in the Daily Telegraph in response to the reports.
He said, “Currently, the industry is fragmented, overly reliant on governments to solve its problems by increased funding and is failing to innovate as health and parallel industries do.”
He says those higher up the chain at nursing facilities need to be made more accountable about failures, in the same way management at building companies are when a worker is either killed or injured on site.
“In the case of nursing homes, where there are vulnerable clients, the management should be held accountable and, in the worst case, management should face jail if serious accidents happen on site,” he said.
In response, Bupa’s CEO Hisham El-Ansary told the ABC he has pledged to fix the problems within “months”.
"We are capable of much better, and we are working very hard to restore confidence in the services that we deliver across 72 homes and 6,500 residents," he told the ABC’s 7.30 program.
Bupa is Australia’s largest privately-run aged care chain and reportedly received $457 million in taxpayer subsidies last year.
For more information about the royal commission and how you can participate, head to our campaign page.