Catholic Health supports aged care abuse report plan

Catholic Health Australia has backed a plan by federal and state ministers to oblige aged-care workers to report physical and sexual abuse of elderly people.

The Age reports that the requirements, which also make it mandatory to report suspected abuse, are among a raft of reforms following a series of nursing home abuse scandals.

Police background checks on workers, and random inspections of aged-care facilities, are also part of the plan to help stamp out abuse of vulnerable elderly Australians.

Francis Sullivan, chief executive of Catholic Health Australia, which runs some 20,000 aged care beds, told the ABC's The World Today: "It's very important that we restore the confidence in the community about the quality and supervision in the aged care residential system."

But he said the industry needed to learn from the experience of mandatory reporting in other sectors and come up with a rigorous and reliable system.

Federal Aged Care Minister Santo Santoro said authorities would quickly determine full details of the mandatory reporting scheme, and implement it as soon as possible.

"(Under the new regime) if any instance of abuse is observed, or indeed suspected, it needs to be reported, compulsorily," Senator Santoro said.

Both levels of government are now working to establish potential penalties for failing to report abuse. Senator Santoro, who met with state and territory aged care ministers, said he remained sympathetic to proposals for a complaints commissioner or ombudsman.

Monday's meeting followed a series of abuse scandals involving elderly nursing home residents. In one of the worst cases, a 34-year-old Victorian nursing home worker has been charged with two counts of indecent assault and four of rape.

Under the reforms, all aged care workers will have to undergo police background checks and all nursing homes will receive at least one unannounced random check a year.

Further work is also being done on a whistleblower protection scheme.

Victorian Aged Care Minister Gavin Jennings said that under the agreement, nursing home owners would be obliged to compulsorily report incidents to an appropriate authority.

"That may be the police, that may be a complaints commissioner," he said. "But there are very, very clear guidelines, protocols and procedures in place to be sure that any incident is pursued with vigour."

The federal Opposition's aged care spokeswoman Jan McLucas welcomed the plan for background checks, but said a more rigorous spot check program was meant to have been put in place six years ago.

Aged care workers must report abuse (The Age 10/4/06)
Governments target aged care abuse (ABC Radio PM 10/4/06)

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

Catholic Health backs power for Minister to address scandal (CathNews 22/2/06)

Tougher checks for aged care staff (Seven News/Australian Associated Press 11/4/06)

11 Apr 2006