Aged care is always in crisis, so who’s held to account?

by Dr. Robbie Lloyd

In a past life long pre-COVID, I spent one year as an Aged Care Quality Assessor, wanting to learn about their alleged person-centred care model and adapt it to mental health reform. Neither of those concepts proved to be true or achievable, due  to systemic design faults in both care systems. Aged care was struggling to meet its goals, due to low wages and often management neglect in For Profit Facilities. And mental health care remains struggling, dominated by a clinical pathologising model, with no national person-centred and community-based care model, to help people to empower themselves.

The most prominent message I picked up during that year in aged care was that very few boards of management or senior executives in the industry were ever held to account, for not meeting the standards expected for appropriate caged care.

This compares to observations during my more than 50 years in community volunteering, where I have spent much of the last 25 years responding to an endless stream of regulatory requirements demanded of NGOs (non government organisations) by government agencies (local, state & federal). All in the name of protecting everyone from bad practices, work health & safety risks, and ensuring efficiency and effectiveness in delivering community services for the benefit of the public.

At least 20-30% of board members’ and management’s time in NGOs is spent measuring ourselves against and responding to regulatory demands, alleged to be designed to protect the end user, us, as a community. Whether we’re youth, people with disability, elders, or people living with mental health issues.

Yet no such accountability ever seems to affect the lives of the board members or managers of aged care organisations, private or community owned. Meanwhile we keep hearing horror stories, such as those featured recently on the ABC about total lack of care in Bupa homes.

When will the Federal Government act on its responsibilities and follow up on all the recommendations of the Aged Care Royal Commission, and start prosecuting the clearly culpable high level board members and senior executives of large providers like Bupa?

Staff and “locums” cannot be blamed when their apparent failures are just symptoms of systemic failures, which directly under the responsibility of board members and senior executives.