Sexual misconduct, drug use and children being treated in adult-only centres are among shocking new revelations to rock Victoria‘s private rehab sector, just days after the state handed down its historic report into mental health.
A scathing report, released by the Health Complaints Commission on Friday, also revealed one private rehabilitation clinic allegedly had links to organised crime and operated a drug lab used to manufacture methamphetamine.
The report found there was a culture of exploitative billing processes, sometimes involving treatments costing up to $30,000 a month, pressuring some clients to dip into superannuation to pay for treatment.
Handing down the report, Commissioner Karen Cusack said there were disturbing patterns within the sector that needed to be addressed.
“The lack of targeted regulation means there may be unscrupulous providers or practices preying on individuals and their families at a time when they are most vulnerable,” Ms Cusack said.
Disturbing themes within the complaints included exploitative billing processes, sexual relations between staff and clients, drug use in facilities and mental health issues going untreated.
When Ms Cusack commenced her investigation in 2018 her office already had 49 complaints, with the majority related to two of the most prominent providers in Victoria.
The Health Complaints Commissioner’s ‘Review of private health service providers offering alcohol and other drug rehabilitation and counselling services in Victoria’ report has been released. To view the report, visit https://t.co/GlbVHrWneCpic.twitter.com/aVcphp9rCS
— HCC (@HCC_Vic) March 5, 2021
Her inquiry resulted in at least four treatment providers closing down.
Ms Cusack said families often faced long wait times to access the public system, which had led to the growth of the unregulated private sector.
The commissioner made 21 recommendations that would establish a stronger regulatory framework, including introducing a mandatory registration scheme, limiting the use of official titles for those with limited qualifications, and that providers take steps to ensure staff do not have sexual or personal relationships with clients.
Victorian Minister for Health Martin Foley said he would consider the recommendations.
“The Commissioner’s report further highlights this need for the Commonwealth to lead on strengthening national regulations around private health care providers and the need for more stringent requirements around quality and safety,” Mr Foley said.
“We need to do everything we can to ensure Victorians struggling with addictions and their families receive a higher standard of care from private providers.”