A report on Earle Haven nursing home, compiled only a month before the nursing home shut down in dramatic circumstances, revealed 71 per cent of residents were taking psychotropic medication and 50 per cent were being physically restrained.

Chemical restraint use “very high”

An assessment report on Earle Haven compiled in late June 2019 showed 71 per cent of residents were receiving psychotropic medication. 

Anna Wunsch, executive director Quality Assessment and Monitoring at the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, agreed with the royal commission that the figure was at “the very high end” of usage in residential aged care.

“I’ve seen examples where that percentage has been in reports for services that have predominantly consumers with mental health or other complex care needs, but that’s a very high number,” she said.

Use of physical restraint “troubling” and “unacceptable”

Counsel assisting the royal commission, Paul Bolster, suggested that data in the same report revealing that 50 per cent of Earle Haven residents were physically restrained was “even more troubling”.

Ms Wunsch agreed that was “an unacceptable level”. “I agree that is a very troubling number,” she said.

Two weeks after the report was compiled, Help Street, the contractor managing the village, closed Earle Haven after demanding more than $3 million from its owner, forcing the emergency evacuation of almost elderly 70 residents.

Audit report led to “concerns”

Ms Wunsch said she was concerned when she read the report.

Mr Bolster asked if Ms Wunsch was concerned that previous assessment reports had not disclosed these sorts of problems. Ms Wunsch said the commission has made “significant progress in relation to this issue”.

She said the risk screening questions that revealed the data on restraints were dropped from assessments in 2017, but were reintroduced in February 2019.

When asked if, had the right questions been asked in 2018, might the information about chemical and physical restraint been found earlier,  Ms Wunsch replied, “I don’t know.”

Reporting physical restraint now mandatory

Earle Haven was sanctioned in 2017, but the sanctions were lifted at the end of that year. There were no further sanctions imposed on the facility between then and when the facility shut down in dramatic circumstances in July.

From July 1 all aged care facilities in Australia must report their use of physical restraint as part of the National Aged Care Quality Indicator Program. Pressure injuries and unplanned weight loss must also be reported, however, the use of chemical restraint does not.

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