A second nursing home in Newcastle has received sanctions from the Department of Health, after it was deemed to pose “an immediate and severe risk to the health, safety and wellbeing” of residents.

The sanctions were imposed following an unannounced audit of the facility, in which the nursing home met only 17 of 44 expected outcomes.

The audit found, among other things, that “There are not appropriately skilled and qualified staff sufficient to ensure care recipients’ care needs are met in accordance with the Accreditation Standards”, and “Management is not able to demonstrate care recipients’ medication is managed safely and correctly.”

The sanctions mean the provider will not receive Commonwealth subsidies for any new residents for a period of six months, meaning it can’t take in any new residents.

The nursing home, at its own expense, must also appoint an adviser to help it comply with its responsibilities, and must provide staff with the appropriate training.

This was the second Newcastle nursing home in a week to be issued with sanctions. Both were in the suburb of Waratah.

Staff may feel “angry”, “betrayed” when sanctions imposed

A spokesperson for the Australian Government Department of Health told HelloCare that between 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2018, 22 residential aged care approved providers had sanctions imposed. Sanctions are still active for 11 of those operators.

The numbers for the 2017-2018 financial year represent approximately 0.4% of the 2,672 residential aged care providers in Australia – the vast majority of providers are delivering safe, high-quality care to older Australians.

Nevertheless, when a nursing home is sanctioned, it can be extremely distressing for residents and their families, who will likely question the care the resident is receiving, and even the very future of the nursing home.

Staff may also be upset and fearful.

Peter Vincent, Director of Aged Care Management Australia, a consultancy that helps sanctioned nursing homes turn their operations around, says staff often worry the nursing home will close, and that they’ll consequently lose their jobs.

He said staff also often feel “angry” and “betrayed” by management.

How nursing home standards can slip

Mr Vincent said problems with nursing homes standards usually stem from a lack of communication and understanding between the residence’s management and the board, in particular the CEO.

Managers don’t inform the board of performance issues, he said, and therefore problems aren’t resolved. The board must understand at a more granular level what is happening in the nursing home “at the bedside”, he said.

Mr Vincent doesn’t promote compulsory staff ratios, saying it would be more beneficial if nursing homes published their staffing and skill ratios online, allowing prospective residents and their families judge for themselves.

Mr Vincent said turning a nursing home’s operations around after sanctions is a full-time job that often takes more than six months. He said it usually requires working with staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week, watching, listing, and reassuring them.

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