By Rodney Lewis
14 February 2023
Since the final recommendations of the Royal commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety were published and since the Commonwealth government response has become available for everyone to read, there has been a great deal of discussion and re-education of most people in the aged care system.
What then, are the areas for reform which have not attracted much attention? One of them at least is the perspective which lawyers might bring to the discussion on the way in which the Aged Care Act approaches rights for aged care residents and other aged care recipients.
There are of course many issues which arise out of the operation of aged care homes which give rise to legal issues and problems. They include the making of the residential care contract and whether or not the terms which have become commonly standardised throughout the aged care industry are reasonable and fair to residents.
There are also incidents which occur daily and which are reported by the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission which also give rise to legal problems. For example, unlawful restraint, the quality of care, resident on resident assault including sexual assault, isolation of dementia sufferers where consents may not have been properly taken by the provider, neglect and harm. The latter commonly arises through, for example, staffing issues and which lead to serious health issues for the residents who may have been neglected.
Those who are observers of the system and its progress over the last few years can look forward to a discussion which is informed, fair and which pays particular attention to the rights, not only human rights but also legal rights of the residents.
One of the main underlying objectives for all concerned in the reform of the legislation and the production of a new Aged Care Act should be to ensure that being a resident in an aged care home includes retaining access to all the rights which all Australians enjoy under the law.