Professor Bev O'Connell - Aged care blame game drives good staff away and issues underground

23 April 2007

A Deakin University aged care expert has called for a stop to the "blame game".

A Deakin University aged care expert has called for a stop to the ?blame game?.

?Naming and blaming risks making the aged care situation worse,? warned Professor Bev O?Connell, director of Quality and Risk Management in Clinical and Aged Care Research at Deakin?s School of Nursing.

?If incidents continue to be dealt with through a culture of blame and public `floggings?, there is a risk of cover ups, and of driving issues underground and good nursing staff away from the sector.

?We need to look at the aged care system and what causes problems in it, rather than blaming a particular person, or group or minister. Let?s work towards improving the system.?

Professor O?Connell said that for the most part the residential aged care system is working and that the current situation with Broughton Hall needs to be seen in that light.

?I don?t want to trivialize what has happened or the need for it to be properly investigated,? Professor O?Connell said.

?But we need to acknowledge that in Australia there are 2930 residential aged care residences which provide care for 154,000 elderly people on a 24 hour 365 day basis - and that overall good care is consistently given.?

Professor O?Connell said it is unfortunate that aged care in Australia is only on the public radar when there is an incident.

?The care delivered by staff in residential aged care facilities rarely gets any public attention or acknowledgement ? unless something goes wrong - generally the standard of care is good. ?The aged care sector doesn?t really benefit from corporate sponsorship or philanthropy to the extent that other health sectors do - it?s a poor cousin in that respect. Equally, we don?t hear taxpayers saying they will pay more tax to support aged care. There is a silence about the work that is done in residential aged care?until there is an incident.

?Yet aged care is going to become more important to more people in the future given Australia?s ageing population. We need to ensure that the provision of good quality facilities are a matter of real public importance and do not slip once the current situation is no longer news.?

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