Australia

Aged care royal commission: Whistleblowers still looking for answers

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The family of a man who died at an Adelaide nursing home in 2016 after being over-medicated has called for more accountability in the aged care sector.

The woman who blew the whistle on widespread abuse and mistreatment of dementia patients at Adelaide's infamous Oakden nursing home has broken down giving evidence to the royal commission into aged care.

Barbara Spriggs, whose husband Bob died in 2016 after being mistreated and over-medicated at Oakden, says she still doesn't know what happened to him.

She also questioned why her concerns were consistently downplayed.

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"I should not have had to battle long and hard for months to be heard," Mrs Spriggs said in the first evidence to the commission on Monday.

"I could easily have decided that it was not worth all the trouble, as I was coming up against so many brick walls."

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Mrs Spriggs criticised the lack of accountability in the aged care sector, questioning if her husband's abusers were still working at other facilities.

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She called for an accessible way for people to get information, particularly when they had serious concerns.

"There needs to be a very clear pathway that an everyday person can follow if they or someone they are caring for experiences a problem," she said.

"There has to be a much easier, uncomplicated road to travel."

Mrs Spriggs said CCTV cameras should be installed in all common areas at aged care centres, as well as the option for cameras in private areas.

Australia's aged care system 'overly complex'

Australia's aged care system is overly complex with reforms over the past 30 years too often addressing issues in isolation rather than the system as a whole, the royal commission into the sector has been told.

At the first hearing to take evidence in Adelaide on Monday, counsel assisting Peter Gray said the aged care system has been subject to many reviews and inquiries.

But he said where they were limited in scope, they had not been able to address the bigger picture.

"The sheer number and frequency of reviews shows that there are many issues in aged care which have not been resolved to the community's satisfaction," Mr Gray said.

Mr Gray said there had been many reviews, but none systemic in nature.

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In his opening statement, he revealed the investigation had now received responses from about 900 of Australia's 2000 approved aged care providers, along with more than 800 submissions from the public.

Many of the public submissions directly related to substandard or unsafe care.

Mr Gray also provided an update on future hearings, with sittings in Adelaide in March to focus on home care and in May to focus on the care of dementia patients.

About 900,000 Australians will be living with dementia by 2050.

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