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The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety Hearings 2 and 3 were held in Sydney with Hearing 2 from Monday 10 to Thursday 13 August 2020. Hearing 3 began in the afternoon of Thursday 13 August and finished on Friday 14 August 2020.

The media release for the Sydney Hearing 2 and 3 was made available on Friday 7 August 2020.

Media Release

The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety will hold two hearings in Sydney from 10 to 14 August 2020, first, to inquire into the response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in aged care and, secondly, to inquire into aged care accommodation.

Due to the pandemic, there will be no public access to the hearings, and the public and media are encouraged to follow proceedings on the live webcast - external site on the Royal Commission website. Witness lists for both hearings will be available on Sunday, 9 August 2020.

The COVID-19 hearing commencing at 10:00am local time on Monday, 10 August, will inquire into the response to the COVID-19 pandemic in aged care, and the lessons that can be learnt for responding to the ongoing and any future pandemics, infectious disease outbreaks or other emergencies.

Witnesses will be called to give evidence about the preparedness of the aged care sector for such an outbreak of disease, restrictions on visitation, and the impact of those restrictions on the health and wellbeing of residents and their families. While important, these restrictions have had unintended, serious, and often tragic, consequences.

Commissioners will hear from two witnesses whose fathers died during the COVID-19 pandemic. Virginia Clarke, whose father died after contracting COVID-19 at Newmarch House, will give evidence about her experience. Another witness, who will appear under the pseudonym UY, will speak about her father's confusion and sadness when restrictions on family visitation were introduced, and how she believes he gave up wanting to live because his family support and connection was lost. Merle Mitchell AM will tell Commissioners about her experience living in an aged care facility in Melbourne during the pandemic. The hearing will also explore the impact of the pandemic on the provision of services to those living in residential aged care, and the impact this has had on their quality of life.

Management of outbreaks at Newmarch House and Dorothy Henderson Lodge will be considered. It is important to reiterate that the purpose of the inquiry is not to find fault or apportion blame.

Witnesses will also give evidence about the impact of COVID-19 on the aged care workforce. Commissioners will hear that both Dorothy Henderson Lodge and Newmarch House lost almost their entire workforce within days of the first positive case of COVID-19. This was not contemplated in the crisis or emergency plans of either provider. Grant Millard, CEO of Anglican Community Services, is expected to give evidence about how distressing this was for residents, families and friends, and for the staff themselves. This hearing will also examine the response to aged care workers who work in multiple facilities.

This hearing will conclude with a panel of witnesses from the Australian Department of Health and the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission. A central issue that will be explored is whether there was a lack of clarity of the roles of the authorities in responding to COVID-19 outbreaks in aged care.

As stated publicly by the Chair of the Royal Commission, the impact of COVID-19 on Australia's aged care sector is a national human tragedy, and one that at the moment, is unfolding daily. It is important for the public to understand that this Royal Commission is not able, and is not intending, to conduct a full inquiry into this impact. "We simply do not have the resources or time to conduct an inquiry that would do justice to the issues which have arisen so far and continue to change and develop," Commissioner, the Honourable Tony Pagone said.

This hearing will include an examination of systemic issues, however it will not specifically examine the response to the recent outbreaks in Victoria. Such a focus would unnecessarily distract those working hard in Victoria to respond to the crisis, and would cause additional stress and distress for those grieving the loss of loved ones or concerned for the wellbeing of family members and friends.

Aged Care Accommodation Hearing

The hearing on accommodation will commence at 3:10pm on Thursday, 13 August 2020 and continue on Friday, 14 August 2020. The topic of accommodation for aged care will be explored at this hearing. The physical setting in which aged care is received is an inextricable element of a person's experience of aged care. The Royal Commissioners will hear evidence about innovative accommodation models that promote ageing in place and access to aged care services, as well as about design principles and building standards for residential aged care, including ‘small home' models and dementia-friendly design.

Hearing 2

Hearing 2 inquired into the response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in aged care and what could be learned from this experience for responding to future pandemics, infectious disease outbreaks or other emergencies. 

Date: Monday 10 - Thursday 13 August 2020

Location: There was no public access. Follow the hearing on the live webcast

Time: 10:00am local time

This hearing inquired into the response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in aged care, and what can be learned from this experience for responding to future pandemics, infectious disease outbreaks or other emergencies. The inquiry focused on:

  • the role and responsibilities of State, Territory and Federal governments in responding to such crises in aged care services
  • what should be done and by whom in the future to support the aged care sector to respond to pandemics, infectious disease outbreaks or other emergencies
  • the balance between managing risks posed by a future pandemic or infectious disease outbreak and maintaining the overall health and wellbeing of aged care recipients including their mental health and quality of life
  • the measures taken by the health and aged care sectors to respond to the pandemic including transporting infected residents to hospital
  • the impact of those measures on older Australians receiving aged care services, their families and their carers
  • challenges faced by the aged care sector including those relating to management, workforce and access to personal protective equipment
  • any other related matters.

The Royal Commission learned how residential aged care facilities including Newmarch House, Dorothy Henderson Lodge and Opal Care Bankstown responded to the crisis, and what more could have been done to support them. The focus of the inquiry was on the lessons that can be learnt for responding to future pandemics or infectious disease outbreaks. The purpose of the inquiry was not to find fault or apportion blame.

The witness list for Hearing 2 is available here 

Transcripts

The transcript of Monday 10 August 2020 can be read here 

The transcript of Tuesday 11 August 2020 can be read here 

The transcript of Wednesday 12 August 2020 can be read here 

HEARING 3

Hearing 3 examined the physical setting in which aged care is delivered and where a person receiving aged care lives, as inextricable elements of a person's experience of aged care. 

Date: Thursday 13 and Friday 14 August 2020

Location: There was no public access. Follow the hearing on the live webcast

Time: 3:10pm AEST (13 August 2020)

Regarding the topic of accommodation, the Royal Commissioners held a public hearing with issues being considered including:

  • appropriate building and design standards for aged care delivery
  • physical design and models of residential aged care, including 'small house models' and dementia-friendly designs
  • access to secure housing for aged care delivery
  • incentivising movement to alternative accommodation for the provision of aged care services
  • innovative accommodation models for ageing in place and interaction with aged care supports

The witness list for hearing 3 is available here

Transcripts

The transcript of Thursday 13 August 2020 can be read here 

The transcript of Friday 14 August 2020 can be read here

At the hearings and workshops, the Royal Commission heard from people identified by Counsel Assisting to appear as a witness and give evidence. People appearing as witnesses were contacted by the Royal Commission in advance of the relevant hearing.

Aged Care Royal Commission

Phone: 1800 960 711

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Web: Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety

Information sourced from Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety Media Release 07 08 2020

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