In the Media

Kelly Vincent – 5AA Interview on wheelchair sports event held at Hampstead Rehabilitation Centre / Oakden Older Persons Mental Health Facility

Transcript from 5AA

Andrew Reimer: Kelly Vincent MLC for the State Dignity Party, good evening, have you had a good weekend?

Kelly Vincent: I have, yesterday I was at the Hampstead Rehabilitation Centre where they were having a bit of a ‘come and try’ day for some wheelchair sports, and sports for people with disabilities. I am not a sporty person myself but was very happy to help out and chat to a few people there.

Andrew Reimer: how is Hampstead going?

Kelly Vincent: Oh look, I think there are some challenges for the future of Hampstead but on the day it was going very well. We had the basketball wheelchairs out, it was very well catered to on that particular day but unfortunately in many respects the future is a little bit uncertain.

Andrew Reimer: Yeah, as is many facilities around our state, sadly, you’re ringing up to talk about Oakden?

Kelly Vincent: I am, yes, unfortunately there’s still much to be said about Oakden and it seems to be going from worse to worse

Andrew Reimer: But we’re still waiting to hear from the Premier, he’s been on leave and he comes back tomorrow but I would have thought in all good conscience the Premier would have come out and said something a lot sooner than from tomorrow when he comes back from leave.

Kelly Vincent: Absolutely and given the gravity of the situation I don’t think it would be too much for him to come back from leave either to deal with this, but look anyway, the reason I wanted to call up is that we’ve now become aware of a particular case that happened in 2011 if memory serves me correctly at Oakden where a 99 year old woman with dementia was indecently assaulted by one of the workers there at Oakden.

This was a man who appeared to be experiencing an active episode of mental illness at that time, that means it’s almost like a double tragedy really because you’ve got the vulnerable woman relying on this person for care and the worker, the man in question, who is clearly not fit to be working in that environment at the time either, it’s almost like a double tragedy in that respect, and it raises some very significant questions around screening processes that are undergone for potential employees and indeed existing employees in SA Health.

In fact just this Thursday, if I recall correctly, on ABC News SA Health admitted that their screening processes for health are not as comprehensive as they are for other fields like child protection. In child protection for example you have the very comprehensive checks where it will not only pick up on convictions that a person has but also charges that they have faced where there was not any conviction and also things like whether people have been detained under the Mental Health Act in the past, of course just because you’ve had mental illness doesn’t mean that you should never be able to be employed again but I think given the gravity of this particular man’s situation and given that he had been detained very recently before coming into contact with this woman, I think there should have been instances that were properly looked into.

As I understand it had they even done a general reference check with the man’s past employer which was an interstate police force they could have told them that he was let go from the police force for mental health reasons as well, so some very serious concerns about the lack of screening in SA Health particularly for the staff looking after some of the most ultimately vulnerable people in our community.

Andrew Reimer: No doubt about it. You’re talking about 2011, that’s quite a long time ago. Would it have improved in that time?

Kelly Vincent: Certainly when it comes to child protection in particular we’ve now got much more comprehensive—

Andrew Reimer: In our health system we know when it comes to looking after our children I think the safeguards in place are probably second to none and maybe a little bit overzealous in some regards but you can never be too cautious when it comes to the wellbeing and safety of our children, but when it comes to the elderly do you think it’s improved since 2011?

Kelly Vincent: Well no because we had SA Health representatives on ABC News on Thursday night telling us that the checks they use for SA Health are not as comprehensive as the DCSI, Department for Communities and Social Inclusion, checks that are used for child protection, we need those procedures to now spread to SA Health given that many of the same vulnerabilities exist for elderly people as do for children, particularly people with dementia and other cognitive difficulties.

Andrew Reimer: Anna Tree, she’s had some correspondence with me during the week, there was a question on air a caller asked at one stage throughout the course of our conversation asking what has the Dignity Party been doing about this you’ve been in office as an MLC since 2010. What sort of alarm bells have been rung that maybe would have alerted you and your party to what was going on and what have you been doing as a result of that?

Kelly Vincent: We have established an inquiry of the Parliament to look into elder abuse and we want to make sure that Oakden is covered by that inquiry because it’s clear that we still have a lot to look into and a lot to uncover in terms of finding out how best to move forward to prevent this from happening in the future. It was the Dignity Party that put forward that reference to ensure that that inquiry would happen, but when it comes to what have I done, well I’ve certainly acted as to any concern around elder abuse that’s brought to my office, that’s exactly why we now have this inquiry happening in the Parliament, when it comes to the difference between what I can do and what a Minister can do, for Members of Parliament who aren’t Ministers, like me, we have to get permission to visit these facilities like Oakden through SA Health and other authorities

Andrew Reimer: And also from the Minister in charge.

Kelly Vincent: Absolutely, so often we have to take a very sanitised, if you like, whereas the Minister doesn’t have to ask for any permission because she is responsible for the department, so she should be able to get in there much more quickly and uncover these concerns much more quickly as has been unveiled in the last week or so with some letters that have been uncovered it’s been clear that other Members of Parliament have been raising these concerns for many, many months if not a year or so, The Dignity Party is really acting on every concern that we receive as soon as we can that’s why we wanted to get the Elder Abuse inquiry, it already is underway but we want to make sure it looks into Oakden as well so that we don’t risk repeats of very tragic mistakes of the past.

Andrew Reimer: And you’re still calling on the Minister to resign?

Kelly Vincent: Ultimately the buck has to stop with someone and if it isn’t the Minister then who is it? The Minister has an opportunity to be dignified and take that symbolic action of actually stepping down and saying, “I did the wrong thing, I stuffed up and I face the consequences”.

Andrew Reimer: It’s going to be interesting to see what does transpire tomorrow when the Premier does come back, he reads the report and whether or not the Minister resigns or he stands by her.

Kelly Vincent: Absolutely and I’ll keep you posted as we talk over the next few weeks, Andrew.

Andrew Reimer: I look forward to it, good to talk to you.