Industry group CEO surprised, disappointed by allegations

The head of the peak industry body Leading Age Services Australia has told the ABC he was unaware of many of the allegations of abuses, neglect and substandard care made on the broadcaster’s flagship Four Corners program.

The head of the peak industry body Leading Age Services Australia has told the ABC he was unaware of many of the allegations of abuses, neglect and substandard care made on the broadcaster’s flagship Four Corners program on Monday night.

LASA CEO Sean Rooney
Sean Rooney

In a bruising interview on the Who Cares crowd-sourced investigation into aged care, LASA CEO Sean Rooney also said he didn’t  believe there should be staff-to-resident ratios, which he described as a “blunt instrument in order to deliver person-centred flexible care to meet a growing and changing set of needs”.

He added that staff ratios were not supported by the international literature.

Mr Rooney also said he had not heard allegations that some facilities were restricting incontinence pads for residents or that some facilities were deliberately falsifying the needs of residents to get more ACFI funding.

However, he said “If that was the case it is illegal and needs to be reported to the regulatory agency”.

Mr Rooney said the allegations surprised him and he was disappointed there was a feeling that the needs of clients were not being appropriately responded to.

When questioned about reports that some facilities spent only $6 a day on food per resident, Mr Rooney said he would question the veracity of those claims.

“Even if we assume that is a low figure, there are some elements that need to be understood,” he said. “These meals are being prepared  for people that have a low nutrition requirement. This is not people that are eating four-course meals”.

In a statement posted on its website after the program, LASA said it had highlighted “distressing and alarming” failures of care.

Australia’s other peak provider body, Aged and Community Services Australia, which represents the not-for-profit sector, did not appear on Monday night’s program.

In a subsequent statement ACSA CEO Pat Sparrow said the stories did not reflect the high standards of Australia’s thousands of aged care workers.

“We are a human industry and we recognise things can and do go wrong,” she said. “We are also an industry committed to continuous improvement and addressing problems where they occur. We have zero tolerance for criminal abuse, assault or negligence. Poor or inattentive care leading to needless suffering has no place in our industry.”

Excessive medication

The program also aired allegations of inappropriate and excessive use of medication to make residents with dementia easier to handle, and suggested staff were not adequately trained to work with these residents.

In a statement on Wednesday, Dementia CEO Maree McCabe said the themes were not new.

Maree McCabe

“It is evident there are systemic deficiencies and challenges now in staffing, education and in the capacity to provide the quality of care people living with dementia and all people accessing aged care services deserve,” she said.

She said Dementia Australia was calling for an investment in training and the introduction of dementia-specific qaulifications, as was all quality standards around dementia.

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, which has long been campaigning for mandated staff-to-resident ratios, said the program had revealed a sector in crisis and repeated calls for minimum ratios.

“Despite the very best efforts of many dedicated aged nurses and care workers, without minimum staffing ratios it just isn’t possible for them to deliver the care that elderly residents need,” they said.

“There is no law, no minimum standard or any form of evidence-based model for safe staffing in aged care.”

Who Cares aired after the release of a key workforce report and a string of aged care policy announcements by the federal government, capped off by Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s announcement on Sunday of a Royal Commission into the residential and home care sector. You read about it here.

Main image credit: Four Corners Peta Bormann

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Tags: aged-care, dementia, dementia-australia, four-corners, lasa, maree-mccabe, Sean Rooney, who-cares,

46 thoughts on “Industry group CEO surprised, disappointed by allegations

  1. As the industy’s representative, Rooney was train wreck.

    Maybe there’s a job for him making training videos on how not to handle interviews?

  2. Sean Rooney, you skirted around most questions. I think u should put your oldest loved one in the understaffed Nursing homes anonymously and visit EVERY DAY and stay for a few hours. You as an able bodied person would not be able to get up, showered and dressed snd at The breakfast table within 6 minutes.! Why would u think ANY elderly person., no matter what their ability could get that done within 6 minutes. You need to be sacked!

  3. I think Sean Rooney was hijacked in this interview but nonetheless his responses were very poor. It is well known that age care facilities often have very poor quality, unappealing food (Maggie Beer talks about it a lot) and to say that it is a low nutrition environment is plain silly. I am sure Mr Rooney meant that people may not eat much, but like everyone else they need nutrition. I wold also like to see what international literature suggests that staff:patient ratios were not effective. However, I imagine Mr Rooney was protecting his clientele: after all many aged care facilities are run by stock exchange listed companies who are really there for profit. The answer is not just about ratios, it is about making aged care a social concern, not a profit making one, and ensuring really good training for care workers.

  4. He was hardly hijacked. The questions were straightforward and on-point.
    Rooney was arrogant – he hadn’t done his homework and thought he could just roll out the standard platitudes LASA has been serving for years.
    He tripped himself and did everyone a great favour by highlighting the incompetence and disconnection of the aged care ‘experts’ who are shaping the course of the sector.

  5. Very disappointed in Sean Rooney’s answers. He obviously has no ideas how Aged Care homes are managed. Unfortunately we had to put my father into a Aged Care home and I saw first hand how badly clients were looked after. I had to attend lunch and dinner times, the food was so bad I brought food in for my dad from home. I witnessed the other clients
    sitting at the dinning tables not eating because often they could not feed themselves and after 20 minutes the staff just took the plates. No attempt was made to assist these poor people. One time the soup was so so salty that it burned when swallowed. I complained to management time and time again but nothing was done. I felt so sorry for the other clients. I am sure they would have died of starvation.
    Mr Rooney is obviously only looking after his clientele/members of his organization. His answer to questions were laughable. What is he doing in this position, he needs to be sacked.

  6. Sean Rooney needs to leave his current position because he is apparently unaware of the actual situation in many aged care facilities. What is he being paid for? He needs to get a job where he does not need any idea of reality. I am a Registered Nurse (now retired) and worked in Aged Care as a Director of Nursing for a period of 7 years. I had previously spent 37 years working in many nursing/ management positions in public and private hospitals. I also taught the NSW Aged Care Certificate 3 and 4 through a regional country TAFE for several years. The issues brought up in the 4 Corners program are evident in many Aged Care facilities.

  7. If Mr Rooney indicates that he has no knowledge or understanding of the questions asked of him, he should stand down, he’s not in touch with the profession.
    I have to say the Four Corner’s report was very measured and in some way understated the problems in aged care. I can’t believe it when you hear comments from those who make policy say we don’t need to have a worker to resident ratio. Let’s try it, and see where it takes us. Our carers are some of the lowest paid workers in paid employment, while the brass is extremely well paid. I’m looking forward to the next episode.

  8. Sean Rooney is clearly clueless as to what his role is, what industry he represents and what it means to have respect. He should be forced to stand down. This was made clear by his incompetent answers.

  9. Sean Rooney and Ken Wyatt both need to resign. They are absolutely useless in what they do. No wonder the quality of care of people in Aged Care has gone down the toilet because of them. Turning a blind eye on the issues in Aged Care. It’s all about money to them.

  10. I have to be anonymous due to my current position however i feel compelled to comment. I agree with the comments Mr Rooney came across ignorant which reflects very poorly on his holding such a position.
    It is inconceivable that he has no idea/was unaware of the issues raised in the 4 corners report. He should have acknowledged those concerns and then commented if he disagreed but to state he had no knowledge of the concerns expressed… really?
    He wasn’t ambushed, he had to know (or should have known) why 4 corners would want to meet with him.. what did he think they would want to discuss, his holiday plans??

    I’m unsure about ratios but agree that the current system isn’t working so perhaps we need to try it, that said, we are hoping that ratios are set at a reasonable level what if they are not and carers/residents are, if it’s possible, worse off with a higher ration than is manageable?

  11. You have no idea Mr Rooney. You need to resign. You obviously haven’t had a loved one in care and you don’t know the system so how the hell are you the CEO????? Step down now or you will be pushed out.

  12. The message I take from all of this is that the staff must be appalling. Not caring about no showers, not feeding old people and happy not to complain about it. Or is it just that Four Corners has a negative agenda and is not really interested in a balanced view that might show that the vast majority of work in aged care is good quality and that we shouldn’t be characterising the industry on the basis of the poorest 3%. Any industry could suffer the same fate. Only the politically expedient get the RC treatment.

  13. Mr Rooney, the CEO of the peak industry body LASA, did himself or the industry no favours. His inappropriate and un-researched responses to the questions posed in this interview were appalling. His responses displayed a total disrespect to the vulnerable individuals one assumes that he and the LASA claim to represent. I don’t know where he has been hiding over the past dozen or more months to not be aware of issues happening within the industry. The campaigns are rampant and the media coverage also.

    Ken Wyatt is a poor Minister for Ageing. He is not representing the constituents his portfolio claims to represent and support. For a Minister not to see the need for openness within their portfolio is a shame.Just one incident of abuse is one to many. A national report that claims that in some incidents residents are fed on $6+/day/person is obscene.

    We live a well resources society. Our Elderly don’t deserve to be shunned, humiliated, abused or ignored just because of their age and need for care.

    Australia should hang its collective head in shame,

  14. The previous responses say it all. What a terribly disappointing position for the chief representative of a ‘peak industry body’ to take. The evidence, some anecdotal yes, but a serious amount after inquiry(ies) has been impossible to miss unless you exist in a ‘denial bubble’.
    What we have is a service provision for our aging that is far too variable in quality. Some is truly very good, and this in term of facilities, staffing, and processes. But far too many aged care sites are falling down badly in some or all of these facets of their service. Out dated facilities are gradually being renovated. The other two areas referred to require thorough rethink in terms of monitoring. Unannounced audit visits has been a step in the right direction, but also may be only one of many changes in mindset for both regulators and providers needed in such a vital service in our community.
    Our aging citizens deserve much better after years of contributing to their country

  15. There is no doubt that the ABC’s Four Corners was able to highlight some tragic cases of neglect, inadequate care standards, insufficient staff cover and generally some really bad examples of aged care, however the majority of residential aged care recipients experience is something very different and this was totally missed.
    This expose has done little for all those employed in the industry who do a really fantastic job in the delivery of a wonderful ‘end-of-life’ experience, neither did the ABC acknowledge that most aged care providers go the extra mile with the quality of care which includes activities offered.
    So while the Four Corners program and the Royal Commission to follow will shake the tree and bring a whole new raft of regulatory measures upon the industry, more resources will undoubtedly be required. So is the Government or the tax payers willing to allocate the funds needed to actually deliver care to the expected level.
    A number of reviews and reports have been presented over the last 5 years, each resulting in similar recommendations that mostly stall due to funding implications. Will the Royal Commission be any different?

  16. I watched this interview in disbelief! ; with a broken heart and full of anger. How in the hell can this man show his face! His lack of empathy and knowledge were disgusting! He sat up there full of arrogance; justifying all the wrongs that are occurring. Something needs to be done about aged care; MASSIVE improvements are needed; staff ratios and training are important. Aged care needs a complete overhaul and it needs it now

  17. I’ve watched Sean Rooney on Four Corners….and he comes across as someone who hasn’t a clue what is going on. Did he take the CEO job for the money? He sure didn’t because he cares about the elderly. He needs to go.
    One day I will be unable to care for myself at home (I already need some assistance) and after seeing this show it is clear that my future looks bleak. I have no dependants and will have to rely on a system where profit is king and actual care due to the lack of staff is virtually impossible beyond less than minimum standards.
    SET GOOD ENFORCEABLE STANDARDS OF CARE…not this airy fairy nonsense from Mr Rooney. And they’d better be higher standards than current care provides. If I end up in one of these old age prisons I won’t be quiet about it. We deserve better than long term neglect.

  18. Sean Rooney has a conflict of interest between representing his members and his answers on acceptable care and standards in Residential Aged Care. A shameful performance and unbelievable that a person in his position has the authority to speak on behalf of others.

    Bring on the Royal Commission with the widest possible Terms of Reference. We need very strong leadership, changed funding, updated standards of care and a commitment to major culture change within the industry.

    Enough of the piecemeal nonsense from politicians, ACTION IS NOW DEMANDED

  19. Could not believe what Sean Rooney was saying in 4 Corners interview. Fortunately I had recorded programme so was able to play back his interview several times to make sure what I “thought” I had heard was true! Would he like to spend a few days in a Nursing Home? Think not!

  20. Sean Rooney is so out of touch with what goes on in nursing homes.
    He said he has visited nursing homes and has not found any issues.
    Last year I tried to enter a few nursing homes to check their level of service, accommodation, cleanliness, efficiency and overall ambience.
    It was like trying to enter Fort Knox.
    ALL the nursing homes required me to make an appointment for another day and supply my identification before they would show me their premises.
    How can any official or family member
    conduct a “surprise” inspection. Unannounced. Impossible.
    Nursing homes are BIG money making machines. Many of the staff are unqualified.

  21. SEAN ROONEY -Your attitude to the welfare and level of care for the elderly is disgusting considering your position. You obviously have never experienced the sadness of seeing a sick, aged parent crying because they are not happy with the people looking after them. My mother cried to me for 17 days before she got sick and had to go to hospital – which i believe saved her life. My mother was fed cocktail sausage rolls for tea she told me. My mother was not showered every day! My mother had a family member visit her every day along with myself so fortunately we could monitor her.
    The population of Australia who love and respect their parents and sick family members want to see you resign. Go on – do us all a favour.

  22. The first thing we need to do is get rid of Sean Rooney.

    An individual who has no place in the aged care industry.

    Until he is removed, no one will have any trust in the system.

    The board of directors at LASA need to act now if they are to retain any respect or credability.

    A petition for his removal would be a good start.

  23. I respond from 2 angles, a son and a Dementia Advisor.

    1. I have always had very little faith when governments cite “leading agencies” as being the all-knowing. You, Sean Rooney, have proven why!

    2. Get off your rear end, get out into a few facilities, get your hands dirty and see the real world.

    3. Come and work at the facility my father (who is now 94) is in. He has Vascular Dementia. Listen to the families. Listen to the staff at all levels, including RNs. Sit with me and let me tell you what our family has to fight for on my father’s behalf on a daily basis.

    4 Your arrogance is appalling! One day you to may be fighting on behalf of a parent.

    There are many many factors that have caused “us” to be in the situation we are in and having you as a spokes-person has set us back many many years.

  24. I believe technology can play a huge part in fixing the industry that’s why we should Use the technology at hand to help prevent abuse and neglect! Nurse call alert systems have the functionality through RTLS to show how long residents are left after activating a call, who attends the call and how long time is spent with the resident.

    This will also show how many times residents are visited or interacted by the care staff throughout a day. The system if programmed right will allow you to see if residents who are dependant on staff to be mobilised are being placed within the facility and left for long periods of time.

    I know the thought of having CCTV in the residents rooms is an invasion of privacy but if it was a thermal camera where no identity is shown then this could work and the identification would be know via the RTLS staff badges and resident tags.

    If an incident was to happen then you could trace back to the day it happened, check who attended the room via the badge and then with this information you can check the thermal CCTV footage of that day and times.

    I know this doesn’t stop the human side of this issue but it’s a solution and it’s available now.

  25. It is common knowledge including inside LASA that the types off issues raised on Four Corners are commonplace and while it is true that not all facilities are guilty of these activities is is certainly widespread enough to be serious concern.

    Sean’s denial and acceptance that things such as 6 minute showers would ever be acceptable is reprehensible. His denial that funding has been rorted demonstrates a lack of knowledge or awareness as legislation was recently changed to stamp out the government’s acknowledgement of the rorting that was and is going on.

    He is trying to cover up the fact that his members are making millions of dollars at the expense of our older generation. His attempt to back track on his statements and now blame government for lack of funding is also laughable. These organisations need to take responsibility and use the money from accommodation bonds and direct them to providing care. This industry has become a property development industry.

  26. NO ONE HAS A LOW NUTRITION REQUIREMENT!!! Just resign if that’s your attitude. I’d hate to hear anyone suggesting that any fellow human ‘has a low nutrition requirement’ let alone someone in your position.
    Our elderly in particular need to be eating fresh fruit and vegetables. Simple.

  27. Sean Rooney is a joke, he has no idea. Why was he there he didn’t do the aged care industry, LASA or himself any good what so ever. One question I would loved answered who did the back ground checks on the so called carers and the age care consultant!

  28. Hang your head in shame Sean Rooney. Do you have your head buried in the sand. As the CEO you need to learn and understand a lot more about aged care than you do at present. As a 79 yo I could do a far better job and that would be without the training that you have had. Put YOURSELF in the position of these elderly folk and ask yourself how you would like to be treated. You too will be old one day and the way you are behaving you should be placed in a dementia ward. Get up from behind your desk and have a look at Aged Care facilities without giving them any notice. Pity help aged care if everyone had the same attitude as you.

  29. ????Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill.

    Many elderly are unable to speak for themselves. There has been too much of nonsense going on at the moment. Worked in the industry for 25 years.

    Time for change…..

  30. Sean Rooney, get your act together and do your job! You should be supporting and insisting on client to personal carer ratios at a minimum, and supporting the caring staff who try their best working in difficult conditions. More staff means higher and better care for our elderly.
    How can you live with yourself when our elderly residents are treated with such disregard.
    The Royal Commission will show shortfalls in the system that you are responsible for and your shortcomings as a human being.
    Do your job and fix these basic care requirements.
    Or you just protecting the profits made by aged care facilities.
    If you can’t do this, make way for someone who will make appropriate changes.

  31. Watching tonight’s program made me relive the horrors of my own father’s experience of over medication and indifferent, inadequate care. Sean Rooney cannot seriously expect anyone with any exposure to aged care to believe his ignorance. I also would like us all to consider why so many ‘leaders’ of the aged care industry are men… when actually most of the aged care givers are women ? How does that imbalance occur? How does it effectively expect to work ?

  32. Everyone who has worked in aged care knows that abuse and neglect are rampant across the industry in every state. But to play the devils advocate (as someone that works in aged care), which browns me off a little is that a lot of aged care residents could easily be looked after by their own families at home, rather than dumped at a facility and placed in the care of complete strangers. But apparently that isn’t abuse or neglect. Go figure.

  33. I found Mr Rooney’s interview disgraceful. He should, no, MUST resign. He cannot justify staying on and remain so completely out of touch. 4 course meals ?? Low nutritional requirements? I worked as senior staff in UK for 25 yrs. Never heard a CEO speak as a representative of a body in such a shamefully inadequate way.

    BTW, the care industry ( protected by Mr Rooney) doesn’t want a stated staff to resident ratio, because if they are exaggerating the care required to obtain extra Gvt funding,they would presumably be required to up the staff numbers to cope with the higher care factors they are claiming for. As it stands, they claim the money, but keep the staff status quo.

  34. I am very upset and very concerned that Four Corners has painted Aged Care basically as diabolical, residents not care for, failure to provide enough nutrition, over medicating residents with dementia. I agree that there are Aged Care Facilities / Organisations out there who can be rated like this. However as someone who works in Aged Care and have for many years, NOT ALL Aged Care Organisations should be portrayed this way. I work for an Organisation who’s staff go above and beyond al all times for our residents, our staff class themselves as working in the residents home and not in a facility. We pride ourselves on the standard of care we provide not only in our facilities but also in the clients own home. Shame on those out there who let the good Organisations down.

  35. Sean Rooney has no place in the Aged care industry. He has to go NOW if there is to be progress beyond the pitiful position the industry is in. I have had 5 years firsthand experience of one of the better facilities. The cost for so called extra care is exhorbitant but is in no way a guarantee of the care deserved and required by the aged and frail. It’s a despicable state of affairs.
    To illustrate, the owner of my parents facility ALSO employed a one on one carer for his mother inhouse. He knew full well the care just is NOT there, despite the cost.
    Move aside Rooney, No BONUS for you. Your defensive attitude tells the full story, you have no empathy and freely admit you have NO IDEA what neglect is out there and what is required. I have never been more appalled.

  36. Let the Minister explain why Rooney is in this role. Disgraceful attitude. He needs a reminder that the neglect and abuse is rampant in the expensive nursing homes too.

  37. As CEO he is solely responsible and has no excuses for the failure to do his job .
    There is no excuse to stop having a heart.

  38. As the CEO of LASA Sean Rooney is a disgrace. He should not hold any position, paid or unpaid within the aged care industry. The elderly do not need people like him.
    To say that the elderly have “a low nutrition requirement” is disgusting.
    As we age our bodies have difficulty absorbing nutrients from the food we eat. So, Mr Rooney in actual fact residents in aged care facilities would greatly benefit from small, frequent, highly nutritious meals. The elderly members of our society deserve our respect.

  39. How out of touch is this fellow who is the CEO of LASA what a joke
    When you hold positions of this nature surely you have half a clue of what is going on in the industry
    Low nutrition requirements honestly
    This makes me sick to my stomach

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