On 28 February Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Bruce Lander QC released his Report into premature deaths and neglect at the SA Government-owned Oakden Mental Health Aged Care facility located in Adelaide's north eastern suburbs.
Lander's Report labels the mistreatment of residents at the Centre as "a disgrace, a shocking indictment and a shameful chapter in SA's history".
Over the last few years there have been horror stories about the living conditions in the residential aged care sector in all states of Australia. What is different about the Oakden tragedy is that Oakden is owned and run by the SA Government which has been a Labor Government since 2002. Oakden Aged Care was in a Dickensian state of care then, but over the following decade and a half, nothing much changed.
In Australia, residential aged care funding comes under the federal government's responsibility. Aged care facilities are run by so-called not-for-profit providers from various Christian Church organisations and for- profit providers such as BUPA, Southern Cross, Estia and Allity to name a few. The labor costs for staffing levels comes from federal government funding. However, the staffing levels and level of training of staff is left to the owners. The private for-profit owners are notorious for cutting staffing hours, reducing expenditure on residents' meals and even controlling their water bills by reducing the frequency of resident showers or bathing.
Like all private businesses under capitalism, whether 'for profit" or "not for profit", it is the economic bottom line that determines how they operate. In the case of aged care, it is the quality of care for the residents that suffers.
In the theory of bourgeois social democracy and Fabian socialism, a Labor government-owned aged care facility and one with a high number of aged residents with mental health illness as well, would provide the highest level of aged care in stark contrast to the federally funded private sector-reliant aged care facilities.
The ICAC Report from Lander highlights how far removed is the reality of a Labor Government in office from anything vaguely resembling socialism.
The Oakden Aged Care disaster is a casualty of Labor Governments being slaves to capitalism.
No money was allocated to bring Oakden’s level of care into the 21st Century because it did not seem like a vote winner, whereas a public-private partnership built new general hospital was thought to be a vote winner, as was funding of more freeways, more funding for the “defence” industry.
When the story started to break about the shocking level of care at Oakden, the inner circle in the state Labor Government discussed handing the whole place over to the private for-profit sector to improve the level of care!
The main reason this did not occur was that the Labor Government feared that unions would campaign against it leading up to the 2014 state election and even withdraw campaign funding leading up to that election. The Government's Transforming Health plan paid scant attention to the residents’ plight at Oakden.
As it turned out, Labor by the skin of their teeth maintained the position of managing the executive affairs of the bourgeoisie for another four years after the 2014 election.
Now on the eve of the 2018 state election, it may be the tragic events at Oakden that are the "straw that broke the camel's back" regarding Labor's hopes of maintaining its administration of capitalism for what would be a record fifth term of office.