Whistleblower GP warned of ‘chaos’
A DOCTOR at Bupa’s South Hobart facility says her warnings to management about serious deficiencies in the clinical care of residents fell on deaf ears.
Elizabeth Monks told the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety that she had made countless pleas to management to address issues, but was dismissed.
Dr Monks said she was prompted to speak out because she could see a spike in admissions to hospitals and an increased prevalence of serious illness and injury.
Dr Monks, who has worked as the centre’s general practitioner since January 2016, said the facility was often “in chaos” but that her concerns were brushed off.
“I felt that there was a feeling amongst those in the central office that I was histrionic, overreactive, over-passionate, and therefore my information to them was not valid,’’ she said. “It was me seeking someone to come and help and assess what was going on and try and rectify it.”
Dr Monks told the commission there was a culture among managers not to report problems because it would reflect badly on their performance.
In an email exchange tendered to the commission, Dr Monks wrote: “I am 100 per cent [sure] there is a culture among the gms not to report problems so that they look good to the powers that be. They don’t want to be redflagged.”
Not happy with responses she received, Dr Monks took the issues to then managing director of Bupa Australia and New Zealand, Jan Adams.
Dr Monks told the commission that Ms Adams’ response was superficial and that she did not have confidence Ms Adams had even looked into her concerns.
Bupa South Hobart was sanctioned in October last year, when an audit found the facility did not meet 32 of the 44 expected outcomes.
“I think if people had listened and acted, we would have fixed a number of the problems,’’ Dr Monks said, before adding that things had improved since the sanctions.
Diane Daniels told the commission the treatment of her mother, Emily Flanagan, at the facility, would “haunt me for a long time”.
“I believe that Bupa South Hobart needs to be held accountable for its failure to put people before profit,’’ she said.
Ms Daniels said she recalled being accidentally called by her mother, to hear her calling out for a nurse.
“Because it was lunchtime, I thought somebody would come into Mum’s room but I could hear that no one did,’’ she said. “I waited but Mum began sobbing and saying, ‘I wish I was out of it’, and this broke my heart.”
Ms Daniels said her mum, who has dementia, reported being hurt on several occasions, including in April last year.
“I know that Mum has cognitive issues but it worried me that she seemed frightened,’’ she said. “This was the second time that Mum had complained to me of receiving rough treatment at night time and of being told to shut up or she would get into trouble or be told to leave.”
Ms Daniels told the commission she found dried faeces on the floor of her mum’s room, which was not immediately cleaned.
Ms Daniels reported issues with her mother missing meals, being left in a hot room with too many blankets, and being left out of excursions.
Introducing the case study on Bupa South Hobart, counsel assisting the commission, Peter Rozen QC, said Bupa had embarked on cost-cutting despite clinical care deficiencies. This included a significant reduction in rostered staff hours and not replacing someone who called in sick.
Hearings continue today, with Bupa to give evidence.