Aged care group investigated for poor care

A Government investigation of serious breaches of care by BCP Health and Aged Care group reinforces the ANF’s national campaign calling for drastic reform of aged care.

Serious breaches of care have sparked a full Government review into 15 nursing homes owned by aged care mogul Michael Manken’s BCP Health and Aged Care group.

Three of the group’s homes have recently been issued with serious compliance notices from the Aged Care Standards and Accreditation Agency (ACSAA) for failing to meet standards relating to staffing, catering, cleaning, pain management and infection control.

While Mr Manken repeatedly swears to the contrary, nurses working at his facilities have reported a pattern of radical cost cutting and redundancies over the past two years as the group has embarked on a massive expansion into the sector.

The Manken group acquired all but two of its 15 facilities in the past two years, receiving about $35 million in Federal subsidies last financial year.

When asked by the Sydney Morning Herald last month if he had slashed staff to cut costs, Mr Manken responded, ‘I am not saying I am … I don’t look at it like that.

‘I am committed to running the homes with best practice standards,’ he said, accusing the ACSAA of targeting him.

In a case that epitomises the problems plaguing the aged care sector, and highlights the focus of the ANF’s national aged care campaign, Because We Care, seven of Mr Manken’s nursing homes have failed to meet accreditation standards – the latest at Palm Grove nursing home prompting the full Federal review into all of his facilities.

Federal Minister for Ageing Justine Elliot said last month that Palm Grove, Anita Villa and Martyn Claver nursing homes had been forced to address problems raised late last year, though new information relating to Palm Grove had triggered a fresh ‘review audit’, which began last month.

‘Any provider who puts profits at the expense of resident care should feel the full force of the law,’ said Ms Elliot.

The daughter of one Palm Grove resident, Sarah Muston, told the Herald she was considering moving her mother out of the home after seeing on-duty RNs halved, and at least half the staff and a string of nursing directors leave in the past two years.

‘The staff here have done the best they could for six months with virtually no director of nursing,’ Mrs Muston said. ‘It was a good local nursing home run by good people. I am sad for the community that has changed.’

The former Director of Nursing at Palm Grove, Lucille McKenna, was saddened to hear about the situation transpiring at her former workplace.

Palm Grove had an exemplary reputation during the decade that Ms McKenna ran the facility from 1997 to 2007, though she tendered her resignation three weeks after Mr Manken’s group took over.

‘Palm Grove was once a nursing home of choice, a friendly and caring community for both residents and staff. In the ten and a half years I was there we maintained an outstanding record – not a single external complaint during the whole period, and we had a perfect inspection record achieving the 44 standards every time,’ she said.

‘We also had excellent staff retention – of the 12 RNs working when I left I think only two or three are still there now.

‘Being owned by a charity, we weren’t driven by profit, though we were never in financial difficulty and maintained a surplus every year. Our aged residents are being used as a tool to increase the profits of shareholders and they deserve better.’

Ms McKenna explained that due to the shortage of aged care places, families of residents had few alternatives. ‘As the mother of one resident told me, moving them is very traumatic,’ she said.

Ms McKenna, who has become a prominent voice in the ANF’s Because We Care campaign said, ‘This is why the campaign is so important, it will highlight the issues, while supporting the nurses who work in the sector.’

Aged care trainer and assessor Shirley Russ Shuley, a former employee at Anita Villa nursing home, and founding member of the Blue Mountains Quality Aged Care Action Group (QACAG), told a similar story to dozens of staff from other Manken facilities.

‘After taking over he called a staff meeting and told us there would be no changes but then said point-blank that his first priority was to his shareholders. The first thing I noticed was smaller food servings but then nursing staff (mostly RNs) were cut, then kitchen, maintenance and laundry staff. Resident’s outings were also cut back,’ she said.

‘I was forced to take a redundancy but staff still there are working under enormous pressure and don’t want to “desert” the residents. It’s where they spend their last days and they become like family. If we do not speak for the elderly and frail, who will?’