When a loved one is placed in aged care, the family expect that the resident will be adequately cared for, fed, bathes and responded to if they need help or assistance.
Yet this does not seem to be the case after The Australian Aged Care Quality Agency (AACQA) uncovered a number of serious breaches at a Queensland Blue Care facility.
A spot inspection at a Bundaberg Blue Care facility revealed 19 issues – including failing to respond to a resident’s cries for help and failing to feed or underfeeding residents.
On December 9, an AACQA representative visited Pioneer Lodge and found a resident hanging out of bed calling for help.
After both verbal calls and the call button went unanswered, the AACQA representative sought and found assistance.
It was reported that residents weren’t showered, were left alone on the toilet for long periods of time and went underfed.
Residents told the AACQA they were regularly fed less than a child’s Happy Meal – with some meals consisting of just three nuggets and five chips.
It was also reported that residents who failed to eat independently were often left unfed. Others reported the meals were so unappealing they were inedible.
Statement from the Nurses Union
Queensland Nurses and Midwives’ Union (QNMU) Acting Secretary Sandra Eales said the situation was unacceptable.
Ms Eales said Blue Care, once a reputable aged care provider, had slashed nurse numbers state-wide and residents were suffering due to chronic understaffing.
In early August, Blue Care cut at least 11 of around 17 Enrolled Nurses at Pioneer House – the first Blue Care facility to experience the cuts.
Blue Care also transferred the responsibility for administering complex and potentially life-threatening medications from nurses to Personal Carers (PCs) who have as little as three hours training in this critical area of care.
As nurses and their hours were cut at Pioneer Lodge, Blue Care used job sites to advertise for untrained people to take on aged care positions at the facility.
“Blue Care are severely cutting their nurse numbers and hours with zero concern for the elderly Queenslanders in their care,’’ Ms Eales said.
“On August 8 we told Queensland media Blue Care’s cuts would have serious repercussions. The AACQA has proved this to be true.
“These cost-cutting measures have since been rolled out at a number of other Blue Care facilities and will likely go state-wide.’’
Statement from the Blue Care
Blue Care currently operates 47 Aged Care facilities across Queensland.
A Blue Care spokesperson told HelloCare, “we are strongly committed to high quality care and place our residents’ wellbeing as our highest priority.”
“Claims made by the Queensland Nurses and Midwives’ Union(QNMU) that residents are suffering due to chronic understaffing are simply not true.”
“On average, Blue Care staffing levels are in line or higher than industry standards across our facilities and Registered Nurses continue to have special responsibility for the administration of complex and high risk medications.”
“Blue Care Personal Carers do not and will not have responsibility for administering any medication to residents and are required to practice in accordance with all federal and state legislative requirements.”
“Pioneer Lodge was recently audited by the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency (ACCQA), which is not uncommon across the Aged Care Sector and issues that were identified are currently being addressed.”
Potential State-Wide Issues
Bundaberg is not the only facility under fire, Blue Care have also cut nurse numbers and hours of care, restructured rosters and transferred the administration of medications to PCs in Toowoomba and Maleny.
The QNMU believes these changes have also occurred in Blue Care facilities at Mareeba, Kingaroy, Rothwell, Bli Bli and Ipswich.
It is expected the cuts will be rolled out at all or many of Blue Care’s Queensland facilities.
Queensland Nurses and Midwives’ Union (QNMU) Secretary Beth Mohle told HelloCare that Blue Care residents were paying customers who deserved quality care. She said those in care had the right to demand a nurse administer their medication.
“I ask families, residents and journalists to hold their local Blue Care Manager accountable for making these potentially harmful decisions,’’ Ms Mohle said.
“We also call on Uniting Care Queensland CEO Craig Barke to stop cutting corners and ensure elderly residents are treated with dignity and respect.”
UnitingCare Queensland is a part of the national UnitingCare network.
Our ‘Responsible Care’ initiative seeks to promote dialogue and engagement between all stakeholders in the sector. The sector has faced a history of limited transparency and accountability due to structural challenges of the sector. These issues are often left unresolved and deferred through a sector wide systemic trend historically to openly engage and commit to improvements. We believe that the sector requires a concerted effort to look beyond negative events and individual stories of distress however important these are, and for real change, to ask questions and accept answers focusing on constructive intent, innovation, cultural change, accountability and leadership rather than blame and avoidance.
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