RC Barrister: “Government has been tardy – there’s been no sense of urgency”

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The lawyers leading the investigation of Australia’s aged care quality and safety systems have grown increasingly critical of the bureaucrats.

Counsel Assisting Peter Gray QC slammed the Federal Health Department and Department of Ageing in his summation last Friday. He openly saw the individuals in the bureaucracy having no urgency in ‘improving’ the aged care system.

The questioning during the week and his summation came to the simple conclusion that the bureaucrats appeared to have no real care for the aged care recipients. Faster outcomes have not been important; residents could continue to suffer.

To give readers a flavour of Mr Gray’s thoughts, following is an edit of his closing statement to the Commissioners. He says ‘Government’ but his target is the individuals in the departments.

MR GRAY: The evidence this week has exposed serious defects in the

regulation of quality and safety of aged care at both the operational level and the design level.

Equally concerning, these defects are old news.

Government has been tardy in implementing previously recommended forms. There’s been no sense of urgency.

Government is yet even to reach a decision on aspects of the actions thathave previously been recommended by Carnell-Paterson.

Government has been unable to deal with the challenge posed by the need for reform or at least to do so promptly.

Critical urgent reform tasks have been outsourced to consultants andappear to be mired in protracted and multi-staged industry consultation processes.

Inside the department, officials are focused on policies and procedures being in place, standards being met, timing and formal processes.

On the evidence this week, a spirit of inquisitiveness and curiosity appears to be sadly lacking.

…We submit that the evidence establishes disconnections within the commission, disconnections within the department and a disconnection between the commission and the department.

And we submit that the aged care regulatory system does not have the broad, agile and integrated approach to risk analysis that is required.

On the direct accounts and case studies this week, the regulatory system has failed adequately to consider and act on the views of care recipients and their families in relation to the care that they’ve received.