Reason to complain

Letter, The Age

John Simpson (Opinion, 2/10) spoke on behalf of all citizens deeply concerned about the quality of residential aged care services. Bipartisan reforms introduced in 2013 decreased regulation and pushed consumer choice. But the “consumers” are often frail, elderly people, many with dementia. How can they negotiate fees and demand a high quality service?

It is no surprise that the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner’s first annual report shows an 11 per cent increase in complaints. Relatives complain because residents’ needs are unmet – when incontinence pads are not changed regularly, when bruises appear or skin tears, and when pressure sores are not treated appropriately, in some cases turning gangrenous. Complaints are also made when residents suffer from malnutrition and/or dehydration and are chemically restrained. The list goes on.

The industry cannot keep dismissing such complaints as a one-off problem. Incidents occur in aged care homes because providers employ too few staff.

When taxpayers are subsidising the care of elderly people, the public’s investment needs to be protected in the form of regulation, mandated staff ratios and a rigorous accreditation system. The care of vulnerable older people is too important to be left to the free market.

Sarah Russell, Northcote