Home - Claire Moore - Labor Senator for Queensland



Senator MOORE (Queensland) (4.11 pm)-It is sad that we are back here discussing this issue, but in some ways it gives us a chance to work through the particular issues that must come out of yet another aged-care home being publicly exposed as not meeting the standards that have been imposed and that we have also grown to expect. On the Department of Health and Ageing website-and I do look at the department website; sometimes I think they do not think I do-are probably the most damning couple of sentences I have seen on a department assessment. I think it sums up where we are. On the background to the Belvedere Park experience it says:
Belvedere Park has the most significant number of noncompliance outcomes in the history of accreditation, with 42 out of 44 expected outcomes under the Accreditation Standards. In taking this strong action-
that they were taking at that time, which was the closure recommendation-
the department recognised the significant level of noncompliance and the immediate and severe risk to residents. The department determined that the non-compliance is widespread, deeply-rooted and intractable, demonstrating a fundamental breakdown in systems and care delivery.

That would have to be a fairly clear assessment of a total failure of what was happening at that home. It is interesting that, while we are talking about the system of accreditation, the spot check process and exactly how the department are aware of what is going on in the facilities for which they are responsible-which we have been asking for many years-the department have claimed in the assessment that they have exposed these issues by their standard process. I question whether you can claim to have exposed a system which is 'widespread, deeply-rooted and intractable' in August 2007 when you look back at the number of visits and discussions that have taken place in the previous two years, which we have heard Senator Humphries expose recently. Senator McLucas has pointed out that these are not new issues with the ownership of this home and Belvedere itself. There have been alarm bells ringing. In fact, the same facility in 2002 had significant failures and suffered as a result of those, under the then system. They were found not to have met the requirements of effective aged care and were punished under the system.
In the period from 2004 until now, there has obviously been some changing and some ongoing discussion. Senator Humphries proudly claimed it to be ongoing monitoring. I ask: how can you be confident in ongoing monitoring which has led to this debacle? I do not like to use emotive language, because that does not help the issue, but I am sure people saw the media coverage of those stressed elderly residents and their families, lost and frightened at the exposure that they were suffering-in the opening of the wounds and having the home where they live, where they were expecting care, exposed as not only not providing care and support but actually being dangerous to their health. When I saw the television coverage of those poor, frightened people being taken away from their home, I asked: is this system working?
We are not claiming that this process is widespread across the country, but if in July 2007 we had asked a question about what was happening in Belvedere we would not have heard the answers about the problems there. It was not until August 2007 that the failure, which was widespread, deeply rooted and intractable, demonstrating a fundamental breakdown in systems and care, was discovered. This is the issue. We have accreditation systems. We have spot-check systems. I cannot begin to remember, Senator Polley, the number of Senate estimates questions we have gone through trying to establish exactly how it works, when it happens, what stimulates the visits. We want to know what happens next.

The fact is that for over seven years this aged-care facility has continued to operate-people have lived there, families have visited-and we have now had an assessment which is the most damning in accreditation history. What has happened after the visits that have occurred up until now? How on earth can the issues, which have been identified in the audit report which is now on the departmental website, continue to exist? They did not happen in a two-, three- or four-month period. These problems are so established and so intractable that they have been going wrong for a long time. How then can you have faith in a system when, as Senator Humphries has pointed out, a facility such as this has had visits over that time? What kind of proof, what kind of evidence, what kind of legal commitment has there been between the people who have been giving information about what has been going on behind the closed doors of Belvedere over last few years?

Senator Humphries pointed out that in 2004, after they were previously punished for not meeting standards, there was some kind of change in personnel and things seemed to get better. That was a small window. I do not know the residents who are living there but one of the things we do know is that residents who seek support in aged-care facilities often live there for a long time. So I wonder whether any of the residents who have had to find a new home now because of the outrageous conditions in which they were living were there when the previous process occurred. How much disruption has been going on to those people and their families?

We also know-and you, Mr Acting Deputy President Barnett, have been at inquiries where this has been discussed-that there is not widespread availability of aged-care facilities in many parts of Australia. In Melbourne itself it is not that easy to find a facility where you are comfortable and where you can visit your family easily. It is a difficult and confronting situation. We do not want to run a scare campaign but we want to understand how we can ensure that the system that is in place-and we can read pages of what happens in the system and how it works and all those things-is working properly. In the case of Belvedere, it has not worked. I wonder how anyone could have any faith that it was going to work in the future. In terms of statements about the government being responsible, it seems to me that if the government can claim success and claim responsibility for the things that are going well, it should acknowledge reality when things do not go well. As we consistently read in the media, when anything is positive and good the government is very quick to get out there with the media opportunity and claim a marvellous success. When things in the same system do not go as well, I think that it is only appropriate that the same government with the same responsibilities acknowledges that it has not gone well. Everyone can talk for minutes on this issue about all the things that are supposed to happen. For the people who were residents at Belvedere Park those things did not happen-and what is going to happen next?