Royal Commission hearing to investigate health care for people with cognitive disability

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19 December 2019

The Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability will hold a public hearing in February 2020 to investigate the provision of health care to people with disability.

The hearing at Sydney Olympic Park in Homebush, NSW will begin on 17 February 2020, for a period of up to two weeks.

It will look specifically at the access to and treatment of people with cognitive disability, including people with intellectual disability, autism and acquired brain injury, in the health system.

Some of the issues the hearing will explore include: 

  • barriers faced by people with cognitive disability when accessing and receiving health care and services, including barriers to communication and health professionals’ attitudes, values and assumptions
  • training and education of health professionals with respect to patients with cognitive disability
  • delayed diagnoses and misdiagnoses of people with cognitive disability
  • life expectancy of people with cognitive disability
  • specific issues for First Nations people with cognitive disability with respect to health care and services.

The Chair Ronald Sackville AO QC said the hearing is expected to gather evidence from people with cognitive disability, their families and supporters about their experiences in the health care system. 

‘The voices and experiences of people with disability are at the centre of this Royal Commission. We also anticipate hearing from medical practitioners and other experts as well as from relevant advocacy groups and government departments.

‘We may be investigating some cases where tragically people have died as a result of inadequate treatment through the health system.

‘The Terms of Reference of this Royal Commission expressly recognise that Australia has obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, including to fulfil, respect and promote the right to the highest attainable standard of health, without discrimination on the basis of disability.

‘This Royal Commission offers an opportunity to examine whether Australia can do more to realise the rights of people with disability and to promote a more inclusive society,’ the Chair said.

This week, the Royal Commission released an issues paper Health care for people with cognitive disability.

The issues paper aims to increase the Royal Commission’s understanding of key lines of inquiry and provide an opportunity for people with disability as well as advocates, supporters, experts and organisations to have their say.

The deadline for responses to the Health care for people with cognitive disability issues paper is 20 March 2020, but responses will be accepted after that date.

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