More cruel blows for nursing home residents
RESIDENTS of the now abandoned Earle Haven aged care wing have been dealt another cruel blow, with families alleging thousands of dollars have been removed from their bank accounts
A number of families have told the Bulletin sums of up to $7000 - more than a month's worth of fees for the care and accommodation of their loved ones - have disappeared from their bank accounts.
The news comes as care contractor HelpStreet Pty Ltd, which was engaged last April, walked out on Thursday following what it claimed to be a contract dispute.
The decision forced the now unemployed staff at Orchid and Hibiscus House, the nursing home wing that is part of the Earle Haven Retirement Village, owned by People Care Pty Ltd, to call triple-0.
A HelpStreet spokesman told the Bulletin a comment could be made through their lawyer but HW Litigation later said there was no comment.
A family member of two nursing home residents, Lloyd Evans, told the Bulletin he was first alerted to the potential problems at the facility after noticing an extra $7000 had been charged to his in-laws' accounts.
"My wife was actually going down to see them about the fee issue on Thursday when we saw what was happening," Mr Evans said.
His wife's parents, both aged in their nineties, had to be moved from the home at 11pm Thursday, while he worked to retrieve their possessions from their room.
Lorraine Cook, whose husband John is a dementia patient and lives on-site, said she had been overcharged $1400 this week.
Rhonda Perry was also shocked to discover, amid the crisis on Thursday, that her mother-in-law's account had already been charged for the next month.
"Everyone out there needs to check their automatic debit," she told the Bulletin.
"Our money had been taken out when it was not due until the 28th of this month.
"It was $1600 charged to us by HelpStreet."
A spokesman for the Queensland Nurses and Midwives Union said a complaint had been made to the Fair Work Commission about underpayment on April 30.
The federal authority responsible for monitoring aged care facilities, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (ACQSC), is now investigating but would not confirm if it had been aware in advance of the impending chaos and subsequent closure of the Nerang facility.
The current owner, People Care, former employees and family members of residents said they had all been aware of ongoing complaints to management by residents.
"People Care have received a number of complaints from staff and residents as to the management of the aged care facility by HelpStreet," a People Care spokesman said.
People Care confirmed meetings were held between staff and management over concerns at the beginning of the year.
The facility was last audited in September 2017, in which it met 43 of 44 expected outcomes.
Missing patient records and medication are likely to be the subject of investigation by authorities, according to State Health Minister Steven Miles, who visited the site yesterday. He said storerooms had been cleared of anything of value.
"Storeroom after storeroom was cleared of anything that could be considered valuable," Mr Miles said. "Our health staff had to reconstruct health histories and medication requirements for the residents in order to stabilise them and provide them with their healthcare needs."
All patient electronic records were still missing.
Gold Coast Health staff had to piece together patient records with little information at hand and by contacting local GPs, delaying the processing and care of the elderly residents in need of transport.
Mr Miles said the abandonment of residents was an "emergency situation" which had put the elderly residents in danger.
"At the end of the day the carers are charged with taking care of 70 vulnerable Queenslanders," he said. "They make a profit from caring for these people. Whatever their internal disputes there is no excuse for just walking out on them.
"There is no excuse for taking their patient records, there is no excuse for taking their pharmaceuticals, for taking their mop buckets, for taking their gloves that staff would use to help them toilet and shower. The behaviour here, whoever is responsible is just disgusting."
The Federal Health Department said it was working with the Department of Social Services to ensure care recipients and families were not financially impacted as a result of moving to alternative accommodation.
Additional costs would be covered by the Australian Government or the "approved provider'' (People Care) under the Aged Care Act 1997.
In addition, residents' refundable accommodation deposit balances were guaranteed by the Commonwealth through the Accommodation Payment Guarantee Scheme.