MELBOURNE (Reuters) – An inquiry into Australia’s providers of care for the elderly has found they fail to adequately look after the country’s old and vulnerable citizens, in a scathing assessment of the industry.

The public investigation into mistreatment of the elderly in Australia’s A$20 billion ($14 billion) aged-care industry that began in January is expected be followed by tighter regulation and a possible sector shakeout.

The report found that a fundamental overhaul of the design, objectives, regulation and funding of aged care in Australia is required.

“The neglect that we have found in this Royal Commission, to date, is far from the best that can be done. Rather, it is a sad and shocking system that diminishes Australia as a nation,” the commissioners Richard Tracey and Lynelle Briggs found.

Tracey, who had been a Federal Court judge for 12 years, died earlier this month.

Shares in the four largest listed operators, Aveo Group, Estia Health Ltd, Japara Healthcare Ltd and Regis Healthcare Ltd, previously seen as an attractive exposure to Australia’s aging population, have plunged since the inquiry was announced in September 2018, although they since have recovered some losses.

Australia’s top authority on older Australians, the Council on the Ageing (COTA) Australia, welcomed the finding and urged more government investment.

“COTA Australia.. welcomes the Royal Commission’s recognition that older Australians are neglected not only within the aged care system which supports around 1.3 million older Australians each year, but also in the negative attitudes toward older people within the broader community.”

A final report will be handed to the governor-general on Nov 12, 2020.

(Reporting by Melanie Burton)