Tragic death of aged care resident in bedroom could have been avoided with CCTV cameras: SA-BEST

29 March 2019

The tragic death of an elderly person after a fire in their bedroom at a State Government owned aged care facility may well have been averted had independently-monitored CCTV cameras been installed in the bedroom.

That is the view of SA-BEST MLC and Ageing spokesperson, Frank Pangallo, whose Private Members Bill - making 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 - will be debated in Parliament next week.

Frank said the tragedy at the Ira Parker Nursing Home at Balaklava, north of Adelaide – where the fire in a resident’s room led to their death - highlighted the urgent need for CCTV cameras in bedrooms of aged care residents.

He repeated his calls for the State Government to start an immediate trial of independently-monitored CCTV cameras in aged care facilities it operates.

“This is such a horrible tragedy - and one that may have been able to be avoided had CCTV cameras been installed in the person’s room,” Frank said.

“At the very least, an immediate alarm raised by independent monitoring would have been given and the resident removed from the room,” he said.

“My Bill has the potential for South Australia to set the national agenda in the vital area of protecting our elderly residents while in aged care.

“I urge the State Government to commence trialling CCTV cameras in the bedrooms of aged care residents as a matter of urgency - we don’t want another tragic incident that could have been avoided.

“The lives of our most vulnerable are literally depending on it.”

The tragedy sparked a Federal Government audit of the nursing home which found failures in 19 of 44 areas, including pain management and nutrition.

The facility has been sanctioned and is not permitted to take any new residents until the sanctions are lifted.

Frank said 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 are 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 Supported Residential Facilities (Aged Care Facilities) Amendment Bill 2018 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.

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.

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.

He said that in the four years the Care Protect system has been in operation in the UK, there has been a 24 per cent reduction in safeguarding incidents like falls, and standards at facilities have improved.

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

“CCTV cameras in bedrooms will give family members peace of mind knowing their loved ones in aged care have that added level of security and protection,” he said.

“The tragic death of an elderly resident in the Ira Parker Nursing Home should never have happened. We need to ensure we as a community do all in our powers to ensure it never happens again.”

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