Oakden is just down the road from where I live. It is was a state run mental health facility for the elderly. I worked there many decades ago. It was not such a bad place back then. It got worse. A whole lot worse. People died. Distressed relatives raised concern after concern. It seemed to fall on deaf ears. But they did not give up.

It took ten years. Anger and frustration fuelled the outrage of family members to continue lobbying for change. Eventually, an inquiry was established. What was uncovered is horrific. Here are some excerpts:

“The truths discovered about Oakden should leave every South Australian feeling ‘outraged’….facility was grossly substandard….the state did not provide residents with a deserving level of care….some of the most frail and vulnerable people in the South Australian community were left without a voice, forgotten, ignored and left to live in a facility labelled a disgrace.

The evidence I received was astonishing.

It pointed to a regime that existed whereby serious complaints about care were not appropriately addressed; mechanisms that are designed to ensure serious matters were escalated either failed or were simply not applied.

“Those directly responsible for the facility actively sought to manage matters ‘in-house’ [and] a culture of secrecy developed.”

Commissioner Against Corruption, Bruce Lander’s 312-page report — titled “Oakden, A Shameful Chapter in South Australia’s History” — made strident criticisms of State Government ministers.

Key points:

  • Five individuals named in Oakden ICAC report for maladministration
  • Former minister Leesa Vlahos criticised for deflecting responsibility for facility’s failings
  • 13 recommendations made, several dealing with facility’s management structure

It escalated to the Federal Government level. On 18 April 2018, Minister Wyatt announced:

  • the establishment of a new independent Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission from 1 January 2019
  • enhanced risk profiling of aged care providers, to inform the frequency and rigour of visits and to ensure failures are quickly identified and rectified by providers
  • the development of options, in consultation with the sector, for a Serious Incident Response Scheme to ensure the right systems are in place to identify an incident and prevent it from occurring again;
  • the introduction of a performance rating against the new quality standards
  • the development of a user-friendly provider comparison tool on the My Aged Care Website.

Oakden was closed and residents moved to new facilities with different staff. Some Oakden staff were fired. Others were relocated and provided training.

I tell this story because I have been reading posts by anonymasaurus and the  ‘Ghost writer advocating for one with no voice, no choice, and no apparent lifeline’.  It is about the appalling conditions and abuse of power in a state run mental health facility  in the state of Utah. There seems to be a common thread running through both places – abuse of power, cruelty, unprofessional conduct, poor treatment, lack of respect and caring, failure to address issues, a toxic culture, secrecy. Here, the process of change is well under way.

It is distressing to read. It must be even more distressing to be immersed in such a place. To feel and be helpless.

There is hope. Change does happen.

SOUL GIFTING November 2018

This month’s Soul Gifting goes to  Letters from a State Hospital.

‘Exposing corruption in the Utah Mental Health System’

Never give up.

There are people out here who care.

Please visit and let her know that her voice is being heard.

16 thoughts on “Whistleblowing

      1. I’m not so aware of what the situation is like in mental health institutions, but there has been terrible disclosures of ill treatment in care homes for the elderly, which is distressing. I agree about change.

  1. Not surprising at all abuse and neglect and other stuff always happen in institutions if there is no oversight. When it comes to the mentally ill their families usually want nothing to do with them and the only reason the families would raise an alarm is because they attempt to get money damages by suing the state. Otherwise if there was regular contact with the mentally ill family member the institutional abuse would have been caught….

    1. I agree there are a lot of people in institutional care who have been abandoned by family. I saw much of it when I was working. So sad. But it is not always so, and in the case of the Oakden situation, the families were closely involved. They did not sue. They wanted change and kept advocating, pressuring and whistleblowing for it until eventually they were heard.

  2. I checked out the post. It seems that ghostwriter has no other option than the one she has chosen. It’s disgusting that people and organisations are able to get away with sadism and cover-ups.

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