“There has been no accountability”: an Oakden family tells their story

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A clear signal of intent from the Commissioners that this Commission will be ‘families first’, the first witnesses to give evidence to the Commission were Barbara Spriggs (pictured), now 66, and her son Clive, 39.

Mrs Spriggs’ husband Bob, aged 66, died after two short stays of one week each in January and February 2016 at the now-closed Oakden Older Persons Mental Health Facility. Mr Spriggs, who had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, Lewy Body Dementia and Capgras Syndrome, had been sent to Oakden under a compulsory inpatient treatment order from the Repatriation Hospital.

“I was told Oakden was the best and only place for Bob and I was privileged he was able to be accommodated there,” Mrs Spriggs said.

Instead on his second visit Mr Spriggs was given a medication dose 10 times the proper dose – 50ml instead of 5ml – and one hour later was dispatched back to the Repatriation Hospital with the significant overdose, severe bruising and pneumonia.

Her major statement: “I think there has been no accountability for wrongdoing in the system”, meaning there was nobody who would take responsibility for the disastrous outcome.

“I cannot believe to this day that we had no choice but to put Bob there. I can’t believe nobody else could pick up how bad that place was,” she said, struggling to maintain her composure.

Mrs Spriggs noted that at the Repat where Mr Spriggs had previously been cared for, staff had understood him and tried to help him.

“There was so much evidence that residents were not being given dignity and respect [at Oakden],” she added. “It was like a prison.”

Mrs Spriggs wants the name of the Government’s Community Visitors Scheme (CVS), which helped her voice her story, changed to reflect its role as a place for the community to report problems in aged care facilities.

That said, Mrs Spriggs still finds it hard to believe none of the people who accredited Oakden picked up on the same ‘gut feeling’ she had – that it was not a good place. “I have concerns about how well our accreditors are doing.” Surely, she inferred, the accreditors must have had the same feeling but turned a blind eye.

Son Clive also shared how the family believes the system could be improved – namely that CCTV cameras should be mandatory in all common areas with an option to have them in private areas depending on the discretion of the resident and their family.

He also wants more accountability – a register that puts a mark next to a worker’s name. As he said: “Where are those staff now? Are they in another state repeating what they did to someone else?”

The family also called for more training for staff. “All residents are different,” Mr Spriggs said. “They have different needs, a higher order of training with more specialisations.”

A topic that will no doubt be canvassed in future hearings.