Catholic Health backs power for Minister to address scandal

Speaking after the revelations of alleged abuse of elderly nursing home residents in Victoria, Catholic Health Australia CEO Francis Sullivan said the Federal Aged Care Minister Santo Santoro (pictured) needs all necessary support to safeguard residents of Australia's aged care institutions.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that fresh calls for mandatory reporting of assaults against the elderly will be considered by the Federal Government after allegations on ABC TV's Lateline on Monday night, of repeated rape and sexual abuse of four dementia patients in their 90s.

The move would be considered at a summit to be convened by the Government.

The Prime Minister, John Howard, described the alleged assaults in a Victorian institution as distressing, appalling and beyond belief. However, he had an open mind on the issue of mandatory reporting.

The Minister for the Ageing, Santo Santoro, said he would convene the summit of nursing homes and unions.

Catholic Health Australia's Francis Sullivan said: "It is absolutely vital that Minister Santoro be given the necessary support to move quickly and decisively to establish appropriate measures to safeguard residents and give confidence to the community over the standards of care and safety in our residential aged care system."

He added that this week's news is very disturbing and must not be allowed to becoming a political football.

"It needs to be the stimulus for a concerted effort to eradicate situations of abuse and blatant disrespect for frail and older people," he said.

"Obviously the overwhelming majority of aged care services are conducted in a professional and caring manner with skilled and compassionate staff," he added. "However, it is totally unacceptable for situations such as those alleged in the media to occur whether in residential care or in the community."

Mr Sullivan described Minister Santoro's initial responses as heartening, and pledged the Catholic health sector's encouragement for him to move swiftly but prudently to restore any erosion of confidence in aged care services.

"The industry has demonstrated its capacity to adapt to changes and reforms driven by a quality agenda. Now we need to take that agenda further and develop a quality compact which guarantees not only the safety and security of residents but ensures that the standard of care we expect for frail older people is delivered and becomes not only a community aspiration but a reality."

Santoro Has Support For Strong Measures (Catholic Health Australia 21/2/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Catholic Health Australia

Aged care debate (ABC TV Lateline 21/2/06)
Aged care abuse reporting scrutinised (ABC TV Lateline 21/2/06)
Politicians respond to abuse allegations (ABC TV Lateline 21/2/06)
Complaint didn't raise alarm bells: PM (ABC TV Lateline 21/2/06)
Aged care regulations scrutinised (ABC TV 7:30 Report 21/2/06)
Claims of sexual abuse at Vic nursing home (ABC TV Lateline 20/2/06)
Summit called to tackle sex abuse in nursing homes (Sydney Morning Herald 22/2/06)
Mandatory reporting no solution to protect the elderly (The Age 22/2/06)

22 Feb 2006