RECENT revelations that a woman was found with maggots in her mouth the day before she died at a Raymond Terrace nursing home have demonstrated that some of our community’s most vulnerable are still subject to “horrific neglect,” with experts agreeing the current accreditation process for aged care facilities is flawed.
Charles Sturt University nursing lecturer Dr Maree Bernoth, said despite many inquiries into the industry, there were still too many instances of cruelty, abuse and neglect for our frail and elderly.
“We need a royal commission,” she said.
“We have an aging population. We need to put a broom through the sector.”
Dr Bernoth said she was disappointed that a bill designed to ensure a registered nurse is on duty at all times at high care nursing homes was not passed through the lower house on Thursday.
She explained that as we age, our health problems do not present in the same ways.
“People with high care needs really need the knowledge and skills of a registered nurse, not to prolong their life, but to ensure they have quality of life,” she said.
Dr Bernoth said many aged care facilities were “fantastic”, but the current accreditation system did not celebrate those, or highlight the ones doing poorly.
Newcastle lawyer Catherine Henry agreed, and said the Aged Care Complaints Scheme was a bad regulatory model.
“If you had higher numbers of registered nurses, and aged care providers were willing to take a hit on the bottom line, you might see some change,” Ms Henry said.
“Of all the aged care cases I’ve been involved in, it often comes down to inadequate staffing levels.”
“I’m a firm believer in litigation playing a positive role in improving standards in social policy. What else is going to happen? We’re just going to continue hearing horror stories.”
Ms Henry said decisions regarding nursing homes were often made quickly out of neccessity.
“Most people have to go with the lovely public relations image on the websites and in the glossy brochures,” she said. “Some of the places we’ve come up against sometimes get an exemplary inspection by the accreditation agency. They might make these criticisms in their reports, but there are no hearings, no publicity.”