Major setback for Australian-first initiative to have CCTV cameras installed in bedrooms of aged care residents as major parties “tune out”

11 April 2019

An Australian-first initiative to have CCTV cameras installed in the bedrooms of residents in South Australia Government-operated aged care facilities has had a significant knockback with both major parties refusing to support the proposed new legislation.

SA-BEST MLC and Aged spokesperson, Frank Pangallo, has introduced a Private Members Bill which would make it compulsory for state-operated aged care facilities to provide an “opt in” option where residents or their families can choose to have a CCTV camera installed in their private living quarters and mandatory in common areas.

The issue was set to be debated when Parliament resumes later this month, but both the Liberal Government and Labor Opposition have said that while they are in favour of CCTV cameras in care facilities, they will not support Frank’s Bill in its current form.

Rather than see the Bill – named Clarry’s Law after the father of CCTV campaigner, Noleen Hausler - fall over, Frank will move to have it referred to the Social Development Committee for review.

And he renewed his calls for the State Government to start an immediate trial of independently-monitored CCTV cameras in aged care facilities it operates while the Committee review takes place.

The news comes on the eve of an Australian-first open forum – to be held tonight (Thursday, 11 April 2019) at the University of SA’s Allan Scott Auditorium - where the issue of CCTV’s in bedrooms of aged care residents will be discussed.

“I am bitterly disappointed that while giving it in-principle support, both major parties have decided not to support my proposed legislation in its current form,” Frank said.

“While I acknowledge there are some legislative complexities between state-run and federally-funded private facilities, there are avenues that can be progressed – like introducing amendments to the current Bill - to ensure legislation impacting state-run facilities can be passed as soon as practical,” he said.

“That said, I am pleased the Health Minister, Stephen Wade, is a strong supporter of the initiative and has indicated the government is considering running a trial in at least six of its facilities – something I urge him to commence immediately.

“We hear on a regular basis horrific stories of our elderly being physically and verbally abused while in aged care.

“If the State-owned aged care facility at Balaklava had CCTV cameras operating in residents’ bedrooms, it may have saved the life of a resident who died in a bedroom fire recently.

“I hope what both the major parties say publicly about wanting to protect some of the most vulnerable members of our community is not just lip service. The Premier himself called for them three years ago while in Opposition.

“The news comes as a setback to Noleen, who has long campaigned for cameras to be used in aged care facilities after using a hidden camera to capture an assault on her father, Clarence, while in aged care.

“It’s also disappointing for people like Stewart Johnston, Barbara Spriggs, Rina Serpo and others whose loved ones were abused while in state care at Oakden.

“It’s also be a significant let down to the community who expect us to act decisively in providing added the security and protection for our most vulnerable. The longer we wait, the more they are at risk.

“While Oakden is one of the most chilling examples of abuse and mistreatment of residents, we cannot believe it is an isolated case of this disturbing type of conduct.  It’s likely there are other ‘Oakdens’ out there now that we do not know about.”

There are currently no laws governing the installation or operation of CCTV cameras in nursing home bedrooms or common areas although their use in common areas is utilised by many aged care providers.

New advances in CCTV technology allow certain areas of a person’s bedroom to the screened out, allaying any privacy concerns. Cameras are not needed in bathrooms, but activity can still be monitored by audio and thermal imaging.

Frank said he would not have introduced his Bill if he didn’t think the appropriate level of CCTV technology was available to protect residents’ privacy.

He cited “cutting edge” technology developed by UK-based company, Care Protect, where – at a cost of about $20 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.

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.

Frank said he hoped other aged care facilities would embrace the technology as a positive acquisition to their business, as well as a significant marketing tool over other facilities that did not want CCTVs in private quarters.

“Since introducing this Bill I have had a worrying stream of constituents come to me with complaints about mistreatment of their elderly family members in care,” Frank said.

“Carers in these facilities have also recounted how they were subjected to bullying, intimidation, harassment and instant dismissal for speaking out,” he said.

“Safeguards like closed circuit television cameras can help restore faith and trust in the system - and serve as positive form of protection not just for vulnerable adults but also for staff and proprietors.

“CCTV cameras should not be feared or viewed negatively as a tool for spying. They should be a positive instrument that encourage and promote a higher standard of care and a strong deterrent to - and the detection of – elder abuse and criminal activity.”

Frank explained that conflicts with Commonwealth exemptions legislation meant that his proposed Bill – in its current form - would not could not cover privately-run aged care facilities that are funded by the Commonwealth.

However, he was confident other legislation by the Commonwealth that will cover all privately-run facilities will be one of the outcomes of the eventual recommendations of the Royal Commission.

“There is nothing stopping any aged care facility – private or public – right now from offering its residents the safety and security of CCTVs in their bedrooms,” Frank said.

“I’m positive the residents – and their loved ones – would rest easier, safe in the knowledge they have increased protection.”

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