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Investigation into nursing homes -

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Investigation into nursing homes

The World Today - Tuesday, 29 July , 2008 12:18:00

Reporter: Simon Lauder

ELEANOR HALL: The Federal Government will investigate more than 30 nursing homes in Victoria,
Tasmania, New South Wales and South Australia.

They're all operated by the company which runs the Kirralee nursing home in Ballarat, where
residents were allegedly not being properly fed.

The Department of Health and Ageing has referred its complaints about that nursing home to
Victorian police.

But a woman who made a complaint against the nursing home several years ago has told The World
Today that she's surprised that serious action is only being taken now, and she wants a mandatory
reporting system for complaints in the aged care sector.

In Melbourne, Simon Lauder reports.

SIMON LAUDER: After a random inspection of the Kirralee aged care facility, the Department of
Health and Ageing has appointed an administrator and told the home to appoint a nursing adviser and
provide more staff training. It's also revoking bed licenses and won't give anymore subsidies to
the facility for six months.

Lindy McGarry says she's somewhat surprised and disappointed it's taken so long for serious action
to be taken. Her complaint about the treatment her mother received at Kirralee was upheld by the
Aged Care Complaints Resolution committee in 2006.

LINDY MCGARRY: The food was cold, I noticed that she was served party pies one day for lunch and
that the food was cold and yes I do think that there was probably not enough fluids going on,
because there's not enough staff. If there's not enough staff you can't possibly adequately feed
and and fix... the other thing was toilets, toileting.

I was there on two occasions and we called, rang the bell from her room for toileting and nobody
came and I timed 50 minutes and I actually had to go get someone myself.

SIMON LAUDER: The Department of Health and Ageing says the home's management of nutrition,
hydration, clinical care, nursing needs, pain management and skin care was putting residents at
risk.

The federal Minister for Health and Ageing, Justine Elliot, says the home's operator, the Aged Care
Services Australia Group, will now be investigated more widely.

JUSTINE ELLIOT: There is more than 30 other nursing homes that are owned by the company that own
Kirralee, so they are also going to be investigated as well because my main concern is for the
safety, health and well-being of our older Australians that are in our nursing homes.

SIMON LAUDER: As far as the Government's concerned, is this company coming very close to loosing
its licence?

JUSTINE ELLIOT: Well some of those measures that I outlined before, if Kirralee aged care doesn't
implement those particular actions the department will move to revoke their approved provider
status. It's as straightforward as that. We have these tough regulations in place for a reason,
it's to protect our older Australians, and because of what's arisen at Kirralee, that's why there
will be an investigation of their 30 other nursing homes.

SIMON LAUDER: Why is the company being given a chance to make amends when it's done something as
serious as underfeeding it's residents?

JUSTINE ELLIOT: Well we look at the situation it currently is, I understand there's over 90 high
care residents currently at Kirralee. There are commonwealth nursing officers there on sight and
also members from the Aged Care Standards accreditation agency. They're investigating and
monitoring, making sure that the people that are there are well looked after and they are safe.

These tough measures that are in place are to make sure that those people can be properly looked
after and as I say pending the outcome of that, then the determination can be made in terms of the
nursing home's approved provider status.

But the most important thing is to make sure that those older Australians at Kirralee are getting
good care.

SIMON LAUDER: The Health Services Union says several complaints were made about the Kirralee
nursing home before the Federal Government went in.

Justine Elliot rejects any suggestion her department was too slow to act.

JUSTINE ELLIOT: No well as I say this is the result of an unannounced check just recently but
certainly in terms of investigating this matter, we'll be looking at all incidents in relation to
this home.

SIMON LAUDER: And what's going to happen in those other 30-odd homes owned by this company?

JUSTINE ELLIOT: Obviously they will be fully investigated in terms of compliance with a whole set
of standards.

SIMON LAUDER: Lindy McGarry, whose mother was in the care of the Kirralee nursing home in 2005 says
it should be illegal for staff to ignore problems.

LINDY MCGARRY: I even had a staff member say that there were things going on but she couldn't do
anything because she'd loose her job which I was disgusted about. And this is where the culture is
also is we need mandatory reporting, we've got mandatory child abuse reporting and we desperately
need mandatory reporting from professionals, doctors and nurses in nursing homes because elderly
are just as dependent, maybe even more so than children and obviously we don't have mandatory
reporting because we desperately need mandatory reporting.

SIMON LAUDER: The Victorian Police say they are examining the complaints and the Aged Care Services
Australia Group has not returned calls from The World Today.

ELEANOR HALL: Simon Lauder reporting.