Aged care Royal Commission has failed the people it was meant to protect: SA-BEST

2 March 2021

The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety has failed the very people it was meant to protect by not recommending the use of CCTV cameras in the bedrooms of aged care residents as a key part of its proposed overhaul of the sector, SA-BEST warned today. 

SA-BEST MLC and Ageing spokesperson, Frank Pangallo, said while he welcomed many of the Commission’s recommendations he was staggered the role CCTV cameras could play in protecting aged care residents was virtually ignored. 

“The Commission’s very foundations were made on the back of disturbing vision – taken from hidden cameras – of aged care residents being abused and assaulted in their bedrooms by people who thought they weren’t being watched,” Frank said. 

“Yet I can’t find one mention of the use of independently-monitored CCTVs in aged care facilities in the Commission’s final report,” he said. 

“That fact totally staggers me and other high profile aged care advocates who have called for this vital reform. 

“History tells us Oakden was a tragic and disgraceful blight on the aged care industry in SA and a sad and reprehensible chapter in the state’s history. 

“It should never have happened - but we know residents in aged care continue to be abused and assaulted. 

“One of the strongest tools to reduce those types of assaults – as well as improving the general safety of residents and lifting the standard of care – is installing CCTV cameras that are monitored offsite. 

“Aged care facilities in other parts of the world that have them are achieving outstanding results – yet in Australia, we are still reluctant to go down that road while wanting to throw billions of dollars in other areas. 

“The Federal Government gave SA $500,000 for a trial of CCTV cameras in aged care facilities but that has been severely bungled.” 

Frank introduced a Private Member’s Bill into Parliament two years ago that would have allowed CCTV cameras to be installed in the bedrooms of residents of State Government-operated and private aged care facilities. 

Unfortunately, both major parties refused to support the proposed new legislation with the State Government instead announcing plans for a trail of the technology in a small number of facilities. 

Frank said he remained bewildered by the reluctance to embrace the technology – especially given new advances in CCTV technology which allow certain areas of a person’s bedroom to be screened/boxed out ensuring privacy is maintained. 

He cited “cutting edge” technology developed by UK-based company, Care Protect, where – at a cost of about $25 per week per room - monitoring is undertaken 24/7 by an independent third party using trained observers, qualified nurses and social workers with full security clearances to monitor and document activities of staff and residents, incidents and performance. 

Monthly reports are provided to care providers, as well as families of loved ones. 

Another advantage is the cameras acts as a deterrent to, and detection of, criminal activity - with the information collected used in investigations and any subsequent prosecutions. 

“This technology is world's best practice in the care and safety of aged and vulnerable adults,” Frank said. 

“Critically, the CCTV technology puts personal safety and the well-being of the elderly resident first – and isn’t that what the Royal Commission was all about,” he said. 

“The Royal Commissioners have totally missed an opportunity where some real good evidentiary information would have come out of it at a relatively cheap cost.”

Ms Noleen Hausler - who covertly filmed the horrifying assault of her father Clarence, 89, in an aged care facility – is also disappointed with the findings of the Royal Commission. 

“When I was asked in 2015 if we needed a Royal Commission I said no,” Noleen said. 

“I said the billions that would be spent on the Commission would be better spent on employing nurses and installing CCTV cameras in residents’ bedrooms,” she said. 

“Six years later I stand by my answer. We have a system without the scope of a 'visual voice' or an 'evidenced account' for residents with no or reduced mental or physical capacity. 

“The recommendations leave the high-end dependency resident with no transparent means to be heard.” 

Oakden whistleblower, Stewart Johnston, also believes CCTV technology in residents’ bedrooms is a must. 

“Independent, professionally-monitored CCTV needs to be part of the conversation,” Stewart said. 

“I stand by my claims through personal observations the Care Protect system in operation in the UK is world leading and we must have here in Australia,” he said. 

“It will ensure quality care and peace of mind for everyone - residents, families, workers and providers. 

“Quality care and safety is a right for all that require it - lives literally depend on it.”

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