Australia: 'I couldn't stay quiet': Barbara Spriggs, the woman who sparked aged care inquiry - PressFrom - Australia
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Australia'I couldn't stay quiet': Barbara Spriggs, the woman who sparked aged care inquiry

14:56  11 february  2019
14:56  11 february  2019 Source:   smh.com.au

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One of the Oakden whistleblowers, Barbara Spriggs , whose husband Bob was overmedicated and mistreated at the home leading up to his death, is expected to be the first to give Ms Spriggs will be asked to relate her family's direct experience with Oakden and with the wider aged care system.

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Barbara Spriggs thinks of herself as an ordinary person, loathe to make a fuss, more comfortable handing out compliments than criticisms and certainly not the type of change agent who could affect a complete overhaul of the aged care system in Australia.

On Monday morning, she was the first witness at the royal commission into aged care that she is credited with having kick-started - an incidental outcome of her long campaign to solve the mystery of what happened to her late husband Bob at the Oakden nursing home in Adelaide.

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" Women tend to think if they say what needs to be taken care of, the other person will volunteer to do it. "Often there's a spouse who really wants to stay home for a year instead of working, but is afraid of the cost. But there are a lot of solutions to financial problems," she says.

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Through grief and guilt, Spriggs has for three years poked into how Bob came to be admitted to hospital with pneumonia, dehydration, bruising and dosed up on 10 times his prescribed amount of medication just one week after he arrived at the facility.

"I'm not usually the sort of person who complains ... but when I knew that things had gone wrong with Bob's treatment I had to keep pushing," she told the commission on Monday.

"I couldn't stay quiet knowing that others may face similar experiences to what he'd been through. To this day I'm blown away by what the results of speaking out have been."

Her quest caused the facility to be closed down, contributed to the establishment of a the independent Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, an ICAC investigation and ultimately to the royal commission into aged care, which has been described by Commissioner Richard Tracey, QC, as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reform the sector.

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'I couldn't stay quiet': Barbara Spriggs, the woman who sparked aged care inquiry© Supplied Barbara and Bob Spriggs. Mrs Spriggs used her testimony on Monday to call for CCTV cameras to be installed in public areas of aged care facilities, a national database of workers who mistreated residents, and mandatory reporting of centres whose residents were admitted to hospital with signs of physical abuse.

"I'm sure that if I had taken Bob to the Royal Adelaide Hospital in the state he was in I would have been reported to the police," Mrs Spriggs said.

"There needs to be protection in the system. If there are red flags like bruising there should be a process in place to alert the authorities."

The commission is expected to hear concerns from residents, families, advocacy bodies, regulators and the industry about the state of the aged care system, its safety for the 1.3 million Australians who access it, and its sustainability as the population ages.

It is also anticipated to hear confronting testimony from people who use the system.

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison fired a pre-emptive strike on Sunday in announcing funding for 10,000 extra home care packages and $320 million for residential aged care centres.

Council for the Ageing chief executive Ian Yates told the commission there was a disconnect between where aged care services were funded and where they were needed, as most residential services had high vacancy rates while there was a 12-month waiting list to access the highest level of home care.

Mrs Spriggs has never found out what happened to her husband at Oakden, though her efforts did uncover evidence that residents were left unattended for long periods, physically abused, over-medicated and sedated.

"It took all my courage and will to keep going. I just came up against so many stumbling blocks," she said. "I know that it's not going to change Bob's experience but I know that Bob would not want others to go through what he did. I also know that if the situation had been reversed he would have spoken out. This is why I want to share my family's story."

Most nursing home staff never trained in how to deal with dementia, royal commission hears.
The standard training for aged care workers does not include any education on dementia, even though the majority of elderly nursing home residents have the condition.

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