Earle Haven and Bupa Eden: Australia’s first two rogue nursing homes

Article published 22 July 2019

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IN Nerang in Queensland shortly after midday on Thursday 11 July 2019, Earle Haven nursing home residents were abandoned by their provider People Care.

People Care, the approved and therefore responsible provider, had subcontracted the actual care-giving out to a company called Help Street.

Help Street walked out without giving anyone notice or warning, taking everything, including medical records, medications and supplies.

Someone called triple zero when it was realised that 70 residents – many suffering dementia – were left without the most basic of care.

A huge and urgent evacuation had to be organised by police and the Queensland Department of Health to get residents to safety.

It should be said that care staff, who had been sacked by Help Street, showed their dedication by staying on to help with the evacuation. But the bosses of Help Street and People Care were nowhere to be seen.

Three residents were hospitalised and the others were moved to alternative care facilities. An 88-year-old resident was one of the last residents to be moved after midnight on Friday 12 July 2019.

The federal Minister for Aged Care had this to say: “I will be looking to bring the full force of possible action onto those who put residents of Earle Haven in such a terrible position – it is simply unacceptable”.

The Minister’s reference to the “full force of possible action” didn’t sound like he knew what to do about this outrage. In the end he just did what governments do in those situations: announce an inquiry. Kate Carnell to head it up. See you later in six months’ time.

The federal Department of Health has sanctioned the nursing home. The sanction? Earle Haven cannot admit any new residents until January next year.

This seems an utterly pointless sanction. There are no residents left in the home and no one will want to move in in the foreseeable future.

What would make sense is the immediate revocation of the approved provider status of People Care and the revocation of Earle Haven nursing home’s accreditation.

Police say investigations have determined there was no evidence of any criminal offences being committed and there are no charges to be preferred against any person or organisation. No further action will be undertaken by police unless additional information is received.

So far, the most threatening thing that’s happened is that the inevitable ambulance chasing law firm has turned up talking big about a class action.

It’s official. Nursing home residents can simply be abandoned without remedy at law. A precedent has been set. We may see more of it and sooner than you might think.

This month we may be in for another rogue nursing home appearing on the aged care scene in the midst of a Royal Commission into aged care.

Bupa’s Eden nursing home failed 8 out of 44 standards in August 2018. This failure rate had increased dramatically six months later to 22 failures out of 44, and just two months after that the rate had increased yet again to 30 failures out of 44 standards.

Bupa Eden will now lose accreditation on 16 August, but Bupa is reported to have said this: “There’s no suggestion it’s going to be closed down, none at all. It will continue to operate as normal.  We’re working very hard to get it fixed before August.”

What happens if Bupa can’t “get it fixed”, which seems very likely given that it went from failing 8, then 22 and now 30 standards?

Apparently, nothing or no one can stop them to continue to operate Bupa Eden as a rogue nursing home. Bupa would not be paid, but Bupa can simply continue providing the pathetic quality of care as always.

Bupa could also just walk away. Like Help Street and People Care.

No law against that.

No law against treating frail and old nursing home residents like you wouldn’t treat animals.

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