September 17, 2018 / 12:55 AM / a year ago

CORRECTED-Australia healthcare stocks hammered as govt calls inquiry

(Corrects paragraph 5 to show a service provider has been shut monthly, not daily, over the past year)

SYDNEY, Sept 17 (Reuters) - Shares in a range of Australian healthcare groups fell sharply on Monday after the government called a public inquiry to investigate reports of elderly abuse and mistreatment in the aged-care sector.

The healthcare sector in the ASX main index was down 0.8 percent. Among the industry's listed players, Estia Health Ltd sank almost 14 percent, Japara Healthcare lost 13.7 percent and Regis Healthcare 10.5 percent.

A similar inquiry into Australia's financial sector has found widespread rule breaches and misbehaviour which has put bank shares under pressure for some months.

The inquiry, or Royal Commission, comes at a time when the number of Australians moving into residential care is set to jump, with the population aged 65 years and above, according to official data, forecast to more than double to 8.9 million by 2055.

Over the past year, one service provider on average has been shut down monthly by the government.

Australia's A$20 billion ($14.3 billion) aged-care industry has about 2,000 care service providers offering home support, home care and residential care.

$1 = 1.3988 Australian dollars Reporting by Wayne Cole; Editing by Stephen Coates

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