Checks un­cover aged-care breaches



A sixth aged-care home oper­ated by an arm of the Unit­ing Church in Queens­land has failed an unan­nounced au­dit be­cause it did not have enough qual­i­fied staff.

Blue Care Ma­reeba, on the Ather­ton Table­land west of Cairns, was vis­ited by Aus­tralian Aged Care Qual­ity Au­thor­ity in­spec­tors on Thurs­day and is be­lieved to have failed a key stan­dard re­lat­ing to staffing.

A source fa­mil­iar with the in­spec­tion told The Aus­tralian it found breaches of the aged-care stan­dards re­lat­ing to clin­i­cal and nurs­ing skills, es­pe­cially the shed­ding of em­ploy­ees ca­pa­ble of han­dling high-risk res­i­dents.

The non-com­pli­ance no­tice has not yet been made pub­lic by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.

Since Novem­ber the churchrun aged-care provider has also al­legedly breached the same com­pli­ance reg­u­la­tions at five other sites in Mackay, Ing­ham and Bund­aberg.

The group has two aged-care cen­tres in Bund­aberg reg­is­tered un­der three provider iden­ti­fi­ca­tions. All three IDs have been is­sued non-com­pli­ance no­tices.

The most se­ri­ous breaches were found at its Bund­aberg Pi­o­neer cen­tre, when an AACQA of­fi­cer ar­rived for a spot check and, ac­cord­ing to a leaked memo, found a res­i­dent hang­ing out of bed call­ing for help. The memo said the of­fi­cer sought help af­ter ver­bal calls and the call but­ton went unan­swered.

Af­ter ini­tially deny­ing re­ports, Blue Care Group ex­ec­u­tive Alan Wil­son apol­o­gised.

“We have taken im­me­di­ate ac­tion to ad­dress process and staff prac­tice fail­ures at Pi­o­neer, im­ple­ment­ing a range of im­me­di­ate changes and im­prove­ments,” Mr Wil­son said in a state­ment in Jan­uary. “We apol­o­gise for the qual­ity fail­ures iden­ti­fied at Pi­o­neer and would like to re­as­sure the Bund­aberg com­mu­nity that the safety and well­be­ing of Pi­o­neer res­i­dents is our num­berone pri­or­ity.”

The aged-care sec­tor has been the sub­ject of fee rort­ing and squeezed fund­ing from the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s Aged Care Fund­ing In­stru­ment, which sub­sidises the clin­i­cal care of res­i­dents.

This month The Aus­tralian re­vealed the $1 bil­lion-listed com­pany Regis Health Care had been called out by doc­tors in pub­lic hos­pi­tals as a fre­quent re­fer­rer of res­i­dents to emer­gency de­part­ments for ba­sic care usu­ally pro­vided by reg­is­tered nurses.

The prob­lem was par­tic­u­larly se­vere at the com­pany’s Sandgate cen­tre, to Bris­bane’s north, where at least five pa­tients were re­ferred to Prince Charles Hos­pi­tal for rudi­men­tary catheter and wound care be­tween Jan­uary and March.

A spokes­woman for Blue Care said it was mak­ing progress on some of its com­pli­ance is­sues and had fixed prob­lems at other sites.

“Our com­pre­hen­sive re­me­di­a­tion ac­tion plan at Pi­o­neer has been un­der way for sev­eral months and is now well pro­gressed, and feed­back from Pi­o­neer res­i­dents and their fam­i­lies has been pos­i­tive,’’ she said.

She said AACQA au­di­tors had re­vis­ited the Pi­o­neer cen­tre on March 27 and “pro­vided pos­i­tive feed­back on the im­prove­ments”.

“The in­ten­sity of nurs­ing care re­quired ... varies greatly be­tween in­di­vid­ual res­i­dents and fa­cil­i­ties, and con­stantly fluc­tu­ates; there­fore Blue Care must ap­ply flex­i­ble staffing mod­els that can de­liver an ap­pro­pri­ate skills-mix for the chang­ing oc­cu­pancy lev­els and chang­ing needs of res­i­dents at each in­di­vid­ual site.’’

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