Brisbane Hearing – Regulation of aged care

The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety will hold a public hearing in Brisbane from Monday 5 August 2019 to Friday 9 August 2019. The hearing will inquire into aspects of the regulation of aged care.

The Brisbane Hearing will begin by examining the sudden closure on 11 July 2019 of two residential aged care facilities at Earle Haven Retirement Village, operated by People Care Pty Ltd, located on the Gold Coast, Queensland. Sixty-eight residents, many of them old and frail and some of them living with dementia, were evacuated by State emergency services with most relocated to other residential facilities.

The Royal Commission is expected to hear from a Queensland Government witness who attended Earle Haven on 11 July 2019, and from Arthur Miller, the owner of People Care which is the approved provider of the two facilities at Earle Haven.

The Royal Commission may also hear evidence from UK-based Kristofer Bunker, the global CEO of HelpStreet which managed the residential care facilities at Earle Haven. The Royal Commission will also hear from witnesses from the Department of Health, and the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission on Monday and later in the week. Through these witnesses, the Commission will be seeking to understand how the events of 11 July 2019 could have happened and how such events might be avoided in the future.

During this part of the hearing the Royal Commission will explore the broader regulatory history of People Care, including as a provider of home care services.

The Royal Commission will also examine the regulatory response in 2018 and 2019 to MiCare Avondrust Lodge, an aged care facility in Victoria which was the subject of consideration in the Cairns Hearing. In that hearing, Johanna Aalberts-Henderson gave evidence about how the care provided to her mother was, in her view, deficient. Ms Aalberts-Henderson described how her mother ‘walked in to Avondrust with the assistance of a walker in late May 2018’. She said, ‘at that time she was cognisant and continent’, and that ‘The speed of her subsequent deterioration took me by surprise’. She told the Commission that within seven weeks of her mother entering Avondrust Lodge, she had had three falls, the third of which resulted in a stay in hospital. She buried her mother on 24 August 2018, three months to the day after she walked in to Avondrust.

The Brisbane Hearing will also consider how reports of assaults against care recipients, and other serious incidents, are dealt with by the aged care system. This will include an examination of how the Department of Health responded to reports of suspected or alleged assaults from three facilities run by Japara Healthcare.

The Royal Commission will hear from witnesses, including recipients of aged care services, about their experiences raising concerns or making complaints about the quality and safety of care. A recipient of home care services, a woman living with dementia, is expected to give evidence that although she tried to raise these concerns through a number of different avenues, she felt like no one cared. The daughter of a resident of a Queensland facility is expected to give evidence about the process she went through after she was alerted to a concern that her Dad had been abused by a care worker. She is expected to say, ‘At the end of this time-consuming, overly bureaucratic and convoluted complaints process to every possible agency, I felt there had been no tangible results and no positive outcome … for my Dad.’

Over the course of the week, the Royal Commission will hear from expert witnesses who offer different perspectives on the regulation of quality and safety in aged care. These witnesses will include Professor Ron Paterson ONZM, joint author of the Review of National Aged Care Quality Regulatory Processes (October 2017), a report announced in response to the failure of the Commonwealth aged care system to detect gross breaches of standards of care at Oakden Older Persons Mental Health Service, and Professors John and Valerie Braithwaite and Emeritus Professor Toni Makkai from the Australian National University.

The Royal Commission will also hear from witnesses with expertise in different but related sectors, Adjunct Professor Debora Picone AO of the Australian Commission on Quality and Safety in Healthcare and Mr Graeme Head of the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission.

The Brisbane Hearing will be held at the Harry Gibbs Commonwealth Law Courts, North Quay, Brisbane and will begin at 9:30am. For more information about the hearing consult the Hearings page on our website.

Proceedings can be viewed or listened to using the webcast on the Royal Commission website. Hearing transcripts will also be available at the end of each hearing day.

The Royal Commission released Background Paper 7: Legislative Framework for Aged Care Quality and Safety Regulation today which can be found on the publications page.