The government will announce a royal commission into the aged care sector on Sunday, citing inexcusable failures of care at facilities across the country.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison ordered the inquiry after receiving information from a government audit that revealed the Department of Health has closed almost one aged care service per month since the notorious Oakden facility in Adelaide was shut one year ago.
The royal commission will look at the aged care sector as a whole and will also include young Australians with disabilities living in residential aged care settings.
Morrison said Australia has some of the best aged care standards in the world, but that “incidences of older people being hurt by failures of care simply cannot be explained or excused.”
Elderly abuse within aged care homes has been under the spotlight since the Oakden nursing home was permanently closed. Residents at the facility, which specialised in care for dementia patients, were subjected to horrific abuse, including both sexual and physical assault.
A Senate inquiry into the home found one resident was given 10 times the amount of his prescribed medication and was left with unexplained bruises before his death.
In his announcement on Sunday, Morrison also flagged the need to prepare the system for the increase in demand that will occur in the next decade as Baby Boomers reach an age where they will need support from the aged care system.
“With more Australians exercising their choice to stay at home for longer, this means that when Australians are entering residential aged care these days they are doing so with more acute needs,” he said.
“We need to get ahead of this.”
About 1.3 million older Australians use aged care services, costing the government $18.6 billion between 2017-18 alone. That figure is expected to grow by $5 billion to $23.6 billion over the next five years.
Last week, the government announced an extra $106 million would be pumped into aged care, to ensure “better facilities, better care and better standards in aged care”.
The newly established Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission has also been handed a further $16 million to police quality across facilities and deal with complaints and audits.
Leading industry bodies have welcomed the government’s shift in focus towards aged care and say politicians must not delay when it comes to keeping older Australians safe.
Council on the Ageing’s (COTA) Ian Yates said “chronic systemic failures in our aged care sector must be addressed” and that greater consumer control and choice and tighter regulations were critical to improving safety and quality across the sector.