Aged carer still under sanctions

By Charmayne Allison

BUPA Echuca is continuing to operate under a cloud after the Department of Health imposed sanctions on March 26 for the facility’s failure to provide care consistent with accreditation standards.

The aged care facility in Fehring Lane has been operated by Bupa since 2014.

The sanctions mean Bupa Echuca will not receive payment from the Australian Government for new residents until late September this year.

In addition to the six-month Commonwealth funding cut, the sanctions include:

■ Requirement to appoint an adviser and administrator to assist the service to comply with its responsibilities in relation to care and services;

■ Requirement to provide relevant training for care staff, managers and key personnel to support them in meeting the needs of care recipients;

■ Suspension of the allocation of vacant places for six months; and

■ Revocation of all vacant places if the service is closed.

‘‘It is the responsibility of all providers to meet the required standards and where they fail to do this, there is a regulatory framework in place to bring them back into compliance as quickly as possible,’’ a Department of Health spokesperson said.

‘‘Throughout the sanction period, Bupa Echuca’s compliance against the accreditation standards will be monitored.’’

Bupa Echuca held a meeting with residents, relatives and representatives recently to provide information about the sanctions and answer any questions.

A Bupa spokesperson said the meeting was ‘‘open and transparent’’ and added the organisation was taking active steps to address concerns.

‘‘(Residents and relatives) rightly had questions on how this happened and what we are doing to fix the issues identified in the sanctions notice,’’ the spokesperson said.

“We are currently recruiting for a permanent general manager as well as additional carers and nursing staff. The care home is currently supported by an interim general manager alongside the regional operational manager.

“Other steps taken include further training for staff on medication management, clinical assessment and resident care. We’ve added a number of resident activities in response to resident feedback.

“Although we have responded quickly, we know there’s more to be done and we will continue to work with the independent nursing adviser and administrator as well as the project nurse based at the care home in addition to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission to ensure we uphold and deliver quality care on an ongoing basis.”

In a letter to the Riverine Herald, an employee (who has asked to remain anonymous) claimed severe understaffing had contributed to Bupa Echuca’s decline.

‘‘This is causing enormous pressure, stress and mistakes to be made,’’ the employee said.

However, Bupa insisted its staffing levels were rostered around the care needs of its residents.

‘‘Providing residents with quality care is not only influenced by the number of carers and nurses on a particular shift, but also the level of skill and training of those carers and nurses and the needs and acuity of the residents at the care home,’’ the spokesperson said.

The employee also claimed Bupa offered very little training — particularly for the facility’s international nurses who had ‘‘obvious skill, knowledge and language deficits’’.

‘‘If Bupa insists on bringing in overseas nurses then they have a responsibility to make sure they are competent in the tasks required,’’ the employee said.

‘‘They are literally thrown into the deep end, sink or swim.

‘‘Personal care attendants (PCA) have limited training and Bupa have the attitude of learn as you go on the job. They are truly the backbone of the care home and get no recognition for their contribution.’’

And unlike most health and welfare organisations, the employee said Bupa did not have a paid time period for verbal handover at the change of shift.

‘‘The PCAs who directly look after elderly residents would like to know if someone had a fall overnight or pain overnight, to assist with their care,’’ the employee said.

‘‘But this small but very important communication tool would cost Bupa money, it’s all about profits.’’

The employee said staff at Bupa Echuca were devastated by the sanctioning but to date had not been informed of the reasons for the sanctions.

‘‘The elderly residents deserve to be cared for by qualified, competent staff trained to recognise when the elderly are becoming unwell.

‘‘Let’s hope the Royal Commission into Aged Care grows teeth and will make the recommendations to clean up this industry. We are asking Bupa to do the right and decent thing by the wonderful residents and the many dedicated staff.’’

Details about the sanction can be found on MyAgedCare.

Bupa urges anyone with specific concerns or information which could lead to improvements to contact Bupa directly or through Bupa Australia’s confidential and independently operated whistle-blower hotline, ‘Speak Up’, on 1800 479 241.