How background screening could save lives in the aged care sector

How background screening could save lives in the aged care sector
old woman young woman smiles

Ten years ago, a fire was set in an Australian nursing home by nurse Roger Dean as he tried to conceal his theft of prescription drugs. 14 people were killed as a result of his actions, and in the investigation that followed, it became clear that Dean had been hired by Opal Aged Care (formerly Domain) without any background or reference checks.  

Had these been run, the Quakers Hill nursing home would have discovered a long run of dubious actions at his previous workplaces, including suspensions, vandalism and removal from certain shifts due to patient care concerns. They also would have discovered that the references Dean provided were woefully outdated, indicating he was misrepresenting himself.  

The events that followed Roger Dean’s hiring at the nursing home were the worst-case scenario, and these oversights illuminate the importance of vigilance in hiring practices. In particular – following up on references, checking previous employment history and conducting police checks, especially when the candidate will be working with vulnerable people or in high-risk scenarios involving money or medications. Not everyone is a Roger Dean, but pre-employment checks can help you filter out ill-fitting candidates and find the right person for the role, whether they’re a volunteer, employee or independent contractor. 

The aged care landscape

The aged care industry is one of the largest service industries in Australia with over 400,000 workers, and is more versatile than one might expect. Typically, when thinking of aged care, we think of retirement villages, nursing homes and residential care. According to the Aged Care Royal Commission Report, while residential aged care receives the bulk of the budget, more than 65% of people using aged care services do so from their own homes. This includes things like cleaning, physical therapies, medical assistance and general assistance.  

One of the largest concerns in the aged care industry is sourcing and retaining staff. These support roles can already be very demanding, and the reports of understaffing raise concerns for staff and clients. It is this understaffing that can lead to desperate hiring decisions – like Opal Care’s hiring of nurse Roger Dean – where important safe-guarding measures are skipped in order to fill roles. 

Background checks in aged care

Workforce Health Assessors released an article in 2019 detailing the importance of pre-employment medical checks for aged care workers, given the physical demands of the job. Aged care has one of the highest injury rates in Australia, but effective screening could make a major difference by verifying a worker’s suitability for physical roles. WHA say, “a pre-employment medical assessment ensures a candidate is both physically and mentally up to the high demands of a job in the aged care industry”. These types of checks could be beneficial in safe-guarding employees and avoiding staff burnout.  

At, we offer Custom Checks, which can be tailored to be health checks, working with vulnerable people checks, proof of vaccinations, etc. Files, such as a nurse or doctor’s note, can be uploaded by a candidate following a medical assessment to verify a candidate’s suitability to a role.  

In the end, the purpose of background checks is to ensure you’re hiring the best person for the role and safeguarding your organisation and clients from risks relating to a bad hire. To simplify your background screening process, check out our website or contact us today.  

Written by Mary Snowden.

Want more to read?

How can pre-employment screening help retailers? 
Pre-employment screening checks can make all the difference in the retail industry. …

Leave a Reply