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Oakden whistleblower slams "bureaucratic sewer" as he quits govt committee

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Former Oakden whistleblower Stewart Johnston has quit his role on an SA Health steering committee to oversee a trial of CCTV cameras in nursing homes, firing a devastating shot at SA Health on his way out.

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Johnston, whose mother Helen was victimised by staff at the disgraced and now-shuttered Oakden Older Person’s Mental Health Service in 2008, today told Health Minister Stephen Wade he would no longer serve on the board, which was established in April to oversee “the rollout of a cutting-edge surveillance and monitoring system in at least five aged care facilities, to better protect the safety and wellbeing of vulnerable residents”.

At the time, the Marshall Government said SA Health would “work closely with residents, families and staff to shape this important pilot”, which would be overseen by “a steering committee with a diverse range of consumer, stakeholder and government representatives “.

The project is being funded through the Commonwealth Dementia and Aged Care Services fund.

But Johnston wrote to stakeholders last night, saying: “It is with regret that I wish to inform you of my decision to resign from the “CCTV Pilot” Steering Committee effective immediately.”

“I have not taken this decision lightly,” he wrote.

“However it has become abundantly clear it is an action I must take to ensure my independence and ability to act and speak freely without inhibition, perceived or otherwise.”

He fronted media today, lambasting the process as “an absolute farce”.

“I’ve spent nearly six months going to committee meetings [and] nothing has been achieved in the entire six months,” he said.

Johnston blamed SA Health’s bureaucracy, saying “there’s a culture in that bureaucracy that’s choking the state”.

“There are good people, but they’re swimming against a very, very strong tide,” he said.

“We had an opportunity here for the most shameful chapter to be the end of the book… unfortunately, SA Health and the bureaucracy that’s been allowed to flourish has written chapter after chapter.”

In a separate post on social media, he lamented that he had “literally had tears of anger today”.

“I’m livid… the blatant bullshit flowing out of that bastard of a beauracratic [sic] sewer called SA Health is beyond belief.”

Wade said in a statement that “the Oakden saga which left many aged South Australians vulnerable to harm was a stain on the history of this state” and “we are absolutely committed to providing the right protections for people in aged care and the Marshall Liberal Government’s support for a pilot CCTV surveillance program remains resolute”.

He said the Government was “working with Care Protect, our preferred technology partner, to operationalise the pilot” but that “issue have arisen on a range of technical and security issues”.

“The Marshall Liberal Government will never compromise the security requirements needed to protect our most vulnerable,” said Wade.

“First and foremost the CCTV pilot must be able to guarantee the privacy of our residents and the security of data.”

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