Day 1 – Monday 18 March
The hearing opened on Monday with Dr McEvoy SC addressing some of the key highlights taken from the public hearings held earlier this month. The first to give evidence was Lynda Henderson, a carer for her partner of 13 years Veda Menghetti. Ms Menghetti was diagnosed with a rare form of dementia that requires specific care. Ms Henderson lamented the lack of choice in care homes in her region that would meet the needs of LGBTIQ clients, noting that the majority of care providers are faith-based organisations. Raelene Ellis gave evidence next outlining her experience caring for her mother who has lived with dementia for many years. The third witness whose identity has been suppressed, 'BE', gave evidence pertaining to the application process for operators applying to become residential, home care or flexible care providers. She was critical of the 'bottom feeder' applicants who viewed home care as no more than a business opportunity. Paul Sadler, CEO of Presbyterian Aged Care NSW & ACT then gave evidence calling for more funding. He argued that the difference between what is available for aged care recipients, as opposed to disability recipients under NDIS, is significant.
Day 2 – Tuesday 19 March
The second day of the hearings heard further evidence from consumers with direct experience in the aged care system. Josef Rack spoke about his experience as a recipient of a level two home care package from Southern Cross Care, Assist Home Care and HenderCare. He commented on the apparent high turnover of staff and the impersonal nature of the way in which the system operated. Gregory Holmes of Assist Services Pty Ltd, a former home care package provider. stated that although the home care package agreement provided that fees were “transparent, accessible and fair”, there was no fixed amount for the fees payable under the agreement. David Moran, CEO of Southern Cross Care (SA & NT) Inc responded to Mr Rack’s evidence and explained the care package fees of Southern Cross Care. Giving evidence with Mr Moran, Caroline Ford noted the steps that had been taken to reduce the number of workers allocated to home care clients.
Clare Hargreaves from the Municipal Association of Victoria advocated for a commitment by the Commonwealth to the ongoing recurrent funding for expansion of the Home Support Program. She criticised the inconsistency of services in the current system. Sally Warren, Rosemary Dale, Heather Jackson and Anna Hansen gave concurrent evidence of their experiences working as personal care workers, providing direct care to home care recipients.
Day 3 – Wednesday 20 March
The third day of the Royal Commission’s second hearing heard more evidence from those with direct experience of the aged care system. The first witness, ‘BC’ gave evidence as to the application process for approval as a home care provider. She gave evidence of her experience with assessment undertaken by the Aged Care Quality Agency, who she felt had a preconceived agenda.
‘BA’ an employee of BB Pty Ltd gave evidence of the application process for approved provider status. BA stated that following review by the Quality Agency, BB Pty Ltd was sanctioned for failing to meet 16 out of the 18 Home Care Standards. BA spoke of the significant financial outlay required to implement remedial action in response to the sanction.
Marie Dowling gave evidence of the challenges she experienced in accessing My Aged Care. She did not regard her level two package to provide her with sufficient funding and time to perform the essential tasks required. The final witness for the day, was Mary Patetsos of the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia. Ms Patetsos gave evidence of the particular challenges faced by the culturally and linguistically diverse community when accessing aged care.
Day 4 – Thursday 21 March
The fourth day heard evidence from Ruth Harris, who spoke about her experience accessing a Home Care Package for her then-90 year old mother, who was told to wait 12 months.
Graeme Barden of the Department of Health responded to questions concerning the approved provider team. BE, the witness from day one, was formerly an employee of his team and Mr Barden responded to concerns raised by BE regarding the approval process.
Dr Lisa Studdert and Anthony Speed, both from the Department of Health, gave evidence concurrently on the nature and extent of non-compliance with the relevant standards in home care. Rita Kersnovske then spoke of her experience with My Aged Care, recounting significant delays in accessing care. Professor Hal Serissen of the Grattan Institute was the last of the witnesses for the day, speaking about the aged care system from an academic perspective.
Day 5 – Friday 22 March
The last witness to give evidence was Fiona Buffinton, First Assistant Secretary, In Home Aged Care. Ms Buffinton spoke to issues around access to home care services. When questioned about the accumulation of package funding by home care consumers, Ms Buffinton stated that it was contemplated that when the system was designed, that a level of unspent funds would accumulate (typically around 10-20% of their package). She accepted that this had resulted in money being held by the provider and interest accumulating.
Dr McEvoy QC closed the hearing by summarising parts of the evidence heard. Relevantly, Dr McEvoy QC noted that improvements were required to enable consumers to more easily navigate My Aged Care. Dr McEvoy QC was critical of the waiting times experienced by older Australians following assessment and allocation of a home care package, calling them cruel and discriminatory. He also called for more transparency of the fee structure and regulation of administration fees.