A nursing home in Woodend, Victoria, where a resident sexually assaulted a frail woman in her 80s, has now been sanctioned by the Department of Health.

The facility has been sanctioned following an audit by the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency, with the Department of Health deeming the facility to pose “an immediate and severe risk to the health, safety and wellbeing of care recipients”.

“Serious concerns” were raised in the audit about Bupa Woodend’s staffing, health and personal care offerings, medication management, behaviour management, and lifestyle.

The sanctions mean Bupa Woodend will receive no government funding for new residents for the next six months, it must employ an adviser and an administrator at its own expense, and it must provide appropriate training for staff to address concerns raised in the audit.

Bupa Woodend held a meeting with residents and relatives on 6 October 2018, and appointed an administrator and adviser on 26 September 2018.

“We accept there have been failings”

A Bupa spokesperson said, “Bupa apologises unreservedly to our Woodend residents and their families” for the sanctions.

It said Bupa is “working with the Department to fix the issues as soon as possible”.

“Our residents are always at the heart of what we do, and in the vast majority of cases the care we provide reflects this. Where we fail to live up to the high standards we set, it is our priority to address this. We accept the Department’s findings that in this case there have been failings.”

The spokesperson said the company has a “dedicated recruitment team” in place to increase staff numbers at Bupa Woodend.

Offender sentenced

Sean Mulcahy was charged earlier this year with the sexual assault of an 80-year-old resident at Bupa Woodend. The assault at the aged care facility was captured on CCTV footage.

Mulcahy was sentenced last week to a two-year good behaviour bond and a $2,000 fine after pleading guilty.

Bupa told HelloCare it worked with police on the matter, and kept all relevant parties informed. The spokesperson told HelloCare that Mulcahy was removed from Bupa Woodend on 27 September this year.

In relation to the assault, the Bupa spokesperson said, “We sympathise with the resident and also her family for what they are going through.”

Sanctions after the event are too late

Again we are seeing an audit leading to sanctions only after a case of poor care has been brought to light.

While it’s reassuring to see that the quality agency is identifying systemic problems in facilities where shocking incidents have taken place, it also raises the question of why regulators aren’t picking up issues before such incidents occur.

In the very large majority of cases, aged care quality is excellent; elderly people are receiving the care we expect and that they deserve.

While we might expect that very occasionally there might be incidents of poor care in facilities, lately there have been too many – which is in part why the Royal Commission into Aged Care has been established. Neglect, abuse, and low quality care in aged care has to stop.

Bupa is recommending that anyone with concerns contact them on 1800 804 888 or email bupaagedcarefeedback@bupa.com.au.

The image used to illustrate this story does represent actual events or actual people.

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