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Aged Care Royal Commission hearings to resume as 4 Corners reports on Newmarch House tragedy

Aged Care

It is pleasing to see that the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety will resume hearings next month after pausing in light of coronavirus – this coincides with a recent 4 Corners report featuring the Newmarch House tragedy in Sydney.

At the time the Royal Commissioners suspended hearings on 20 March 2020, a hearing was to commence on mental health, oral health and allied health care in aged care provision. This hearing will now take place in Melbourne from 15 to 17 July 2020.

The Royal Commission says that commissioners and staff have continued to work on research and policy development as part of preparation for the final report which is still due to be finalised in November 2020.

Melbourne Hearing 4 will be closed to the public due to COVID-19 restrictions. Interested members of the public can view proceedings on the live webcast.

Adelaide hearings

Before the Royal Commission suspended hearings, several hearings and workshops were held in Adelaide. Read our summary of the February workshop, and Adelaide Hearing 3 on the future of the aged care workforce here.

On March 4, the Commission held a fourth Adelaide hearing to receive submissions from Senior Counsel Assisting, Peter Gray QC, on aged care program redesign.

A second Adelaide workshop was held on March 16 and 17 covering research, innovation and technology that can be utilised in aged care and how to apply new practices in the sector.

Commissioners were investigating whether the aged care sector and the Government are putting enough support behind innovative technology developments, and spoke with a range of witnesses and industry experts to understand the barriers to innovation, how to translate the research in aged care practice, and utilise technology to help older Australians.

COVID-19 and the Newmarch House tragedy

The Royal Commission will look at the issue of the COVID-19 pandemic in its final report.

I have argued that while a focus on COVID-19 by the Commission doesn’t hurt, an independent inquiry into the deaths is needed. Read my thoughts here. Thankfully, the NSW Coroner will now also investigate the deaths at Newmarch House.

Meanwhile, there was a very good ABC TV 4 Corners program on Newmarch House. The investigative team has produced an excellent timeline of the events surrounding the tragedy. View it here.

Nineteen elderly residents of Newmarch House died during the outbreak. Two of them had recovered from COVID-19 at the time of their deaths and were not counted towards Australia’s overall COVID-19 death tally.

Confirming my view that an independent inquiry is needed – in the program Anglicare boss Grant Millard said that the Royal Commission would inquire only and it was not about apportioning blame

But the family members said they wanted someone to be held accountable and acknowledge their role in the deaths. They, rightly and understandably, want a full blown investigation – they want answers.

One-fifth of Australia’s deaths from COVID-19 occurred at Newmarch House – did they die in order to keep the community safe? The community needs answers too.

More information and help with aged care and elder law issues

We will continue to provide summaries of the Royal Commission’s work as well as other aged care and elder law issues in our blogs and in our newsletter. Subscribe to our newsletters hear.

If you or a loved one in an aged care facility has been impacted by Covid-19 or is dissatisfied with care provided, talk to our expert team about the options available to you.


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