Managers and boards of residential aged care facilities should be held personally accountable when standards are not met, a leading Hunter legal expert on aged care issues has told a royal commission.
Newcastle lawyer Catherine Henry has been involved in aged care law for a decade - mainly handling negligence cases - and is the national spokesperson for aged care issues for the Australian Lawyers Alliance.
Ms Henry told the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety when it visited Newcastle on Wednesday that it was "not sufficient to revoke accreditation only to have it re-conferred in a subsequent accreditation inspection" when standards were found lacking.
She provided the Newcastle Herald with her statement to the commission.
Ms Henry was one of more than 20 speakers who addressed commissioner Lynelle Briggs this week, detailing the ways in which the aged care sector had failed them and suggesting ideas for improvement.
"Those who suffer as a result of unarguable clinical negligence are entitled to compensation," she said.
Ms Henry told the commission that a new Aged Care Act should be introduced, which included the terms "regulation" or "regulatory system".
She also called for the introduction of an independent tribunal, based on a similar model to the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission, which could hand out fines, publicly reprimand care providers and order financial compensation.
Ms Henry suggested hearings could be conducted by the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
"The current system places undue focus on internal complaint mechanisms," she told the commission.
"The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission and the government-funded Older Persons Advocacy Network still direct complainants back to their service providers.
"This practice fails to properly recognise the implicit threat of reprisal. In my experience, reprisals often occur."
The Newcastle Herald reported earlier this week that the commission heard accounts of elderly people being subjected to sitting in their own faeces, long waits for help after falls, poor pain management, alleged failures of management to tell families about falls or serious injuries that their relatives had sustained, thefts, sub-par hygiene standards, inedible food, long waiting lists and ignored complaints.
Commissioner Briggs told the forum she and her colleagues intended to recommend significant changes to the sector at the end of their investigation.
The commission tabled its interim report last month.
It is due to hand down its final report on November 12, 2020.
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