DEATHS IN DISABILTY CARE – WHO CARES?
The media’s current focus on the deaths of babies at the Bacchus Marsh hospital, highlighted through the ABC’s 7.30 Report (15/2/16), has quite rightly provoked a storm within the community.
Probing questions are being asked about these deaths. There is now a focus on the responsibilities of the Minister for Health, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), and the hospital’s Board, to determine what went wrong.
Over the last 12 months, Max Jackson and Margaret Ryan, disability advocates, have been pursuing the matter of deaths occurring in disability residential services, including those provided by DHHS.
In late 2011 there occurred a change to the reporting of deaths in disability care. As a result, it is now impossible to establish how many people with disabilities have died in care. Published figures of all deaths in disability care show that prior to the change, around five deaths were occurring each week. There is no reason to assume that this number has decreased.
Despite having pursued the matter of deaths in disability care, the writers have been largely unsuccessful in gaining any real interest. There has been a “Yes, Minister” response from some and a wall of silence from others. Deaths in disability care seem not to be on the radar of the Disability Minister, Minister Foley, senior bureaucrats, and the watchdog entities of the Public Advocate and the Disability Services Commissioner.
Essentially the same lack of ownership that has occurred at the Bacchus Marsh hospital applies to deaths in disability care. Max Jackson and Margaret Ryan ask the question, “Does anyone in a position of power and responsibility actually care about deaths in disability care?” “Time and again concerns are voiced about issues ranging from the death of children, child protection, and even the death of dogs in the Lost Dogs Home. Yet at the same time a cone of silence surrounds the deaths of people with disabilities in care.”
“What will it take for someone to take up the issue of deaths in disability care?”, Max and Margaret ask. “Will Minister Foley take a personal interest in deaths occurring in disability care, as the Minister for Health is now doing in relation to the Bacchus Marsh hospital deaths?”
Given the recent attention to abuse and neglect in the disability sector, Max and Margaret demand that every death that occurs in disability care be investigated to determine whether or not abuse and neglect have been contributing factors in any of the deaths. They demand that the full death figures are published. At the moment, “Who knows?” And more to the point, “Who cares?”
Contact: Max Jackson Mobile 0413 040 654
Margaret Ryan Mobile 0412 409 610