TriCare passes accreditation as more disturbing claims emerge
FROM the first night falling out of a narrow bed to 12 more falls, one which led to a broken femur in three places, the family of Toby Hewerdine was desperate to move their father from Bundaberg TriCare.
Daughter Trish Arnold said it was finally safe for the family to speak out because their aged father had found another care provider.
The family is calling on authorities to increase funding to aged care facilities and improve nurse-patient ratios so the elderly can be better looked after.
Ms Arnold said her father was left crying in pain for days when his broken leg was left undiagnosed, despite repeat calls for an X-Ray from the family.
The falls were the catalyst for the move, but Ms Arnold said the family had made numerous other complaints about care at Tricare since Mr Hewerdine's admission in December 2016.
Some of the claims include: finding their once-proud father lying in faeces, half out of the bed on the floor; another time left soaked in urine while left to watch television without glasses or hearing aids.
The family were so concerned about their father they put a poster up in his bedroom to remind staff of what needed to be done for him.
The poster read:
- Please make sure teeth are removed at bed time and cleaned morning and night
- Make sure both hearing aids are removed to sleep and need to be re-put in each time to be able to hear you
- He cannot hear you without them so you must get his attention and speak loudly and slowly to understand what you are doing
- Do not allow to be in a chair without the tray as he will try to rise and fall again
- Please make sure you write in your handover notes for the next shift to inform of falls, and request as this is not being handed over
They also made multiple complaints to management.
"They could not of been nicer, (they) listen and offer solutions but do not follow up with the care," Mrs Arnold said.
"Most of the staff I found to be caring, but are just not there enough."
The NewsMail's reporting on the aged care problem has sparked the interest of the Queensland Nurses' and Midwives' Union.
Secretary Beth Mohle said the QNMU asked TriCare to make their roster public in the face of growing concern.
Ms Mohle said last Wednesday TriCare Human Resources Manager Chris O'Brien replied to her queries.
"We decline to provide the QNU with rosters," he said.
The union also claimed Mr O'Brien failed to provide a guarantee that at least one registered nurse would be on site in every TriCare facility at all times.
"We are extremely disappointed TriCare has refused to make public this very basic information on staff numbers in their facilities," Ms Mohle said.
"They have also failed to guarantee a registered nurse is on site at all times.
"We call on Queenslanders with elderly loved ones to firmly ask their aged care provider for a current staff roster because the number and skill set of those on site could mean the difference between life and death."
TriCare passes inspection
THE TriCare Bundaberg Aged Care Residence has been audited for a second time in two months by the independent Australian Aged Care Quality Agency and again been assessed as delivering quality standards of resident care.
The separate audits by the quality agency, the Federal Government body charged with ensuring aged care residences meet care benchmarks, follow concerns voiced by two residents' representatives about care by the NewsMail.
A TriCare spokesman said two quality assessors from the AACQA attended the residence unannounced on February 23 and over a period of 16 hours assessed three expected outcomes comprising a total of 40 care criteria.
The quality assessors interviewed 16 residents and representatives, together with numerous staff members, and reviewed documentation including documents related to the care of both of the residents the subject of recent complaints and media coverage.
In its report, the quality agency determined that TriCare Bundaberg is meeting all of the assessed expected outcomes, TriCare said.
The visit follows an earlier audit on December 21 when two quality assessors spent 14 hours at the facility assessing three expected outcomes covering 42 care criteria. In that instance also, the residence achieved all expected outcomes assessed.
Both unannounced visits are in addition to a full accreditation audit conducted over three days by the AACQA last June, covering the four quality standards encompassing 44 expected outcomes at TriCare Bundaberg.
The residence was assessed as meeting all 44 expected outcomes and was accredited for three years, the maximum period of accreditation awarded by the AACQA.
TriCare director Michael O'Connor said the two recent unannounced visits had focused on expected outcomes specifically related to the issues of concern raised by representatives of residents Mrs Emily Foody and Mr Bill Brown.
In addition, a formal complaint in January to the Federal Government's independent Aged Care Complaints Commissioner by Mr Brown's wife, Heather, in relation to her husband's care has been fully investigated by the Commissioner and resolved with no outstanding issues, Mr O'Connor said.
Most recently a conciliation meeting was held between Mrs Brown, TriCare and the Complaints Commissioner on February 14 during which agreed outcomes were reached between the parties and documented in an outcomes letter issued by the Commissioner.
There has been no complaint made to the Commissioner in relation to Mrs Foody's care.
"We completely reject accusations of poor care at the TriCare Bundaberg Aged Care Residence," Mr O'Connor said.
"TriCare is committed to providing the highest level of quality care to our residents, and we achieve this through the skilled, committed and caring staff that we have at our services and throughout our organisation, together with robust internal governance processes.
"Our standards of care at TriCare Bundaberg have again been endorsed by the Aged Care Quality Agency, and during the agency's most recent visit the assessors provided extremely positive feedback about the care being provided there.
"As well, TriCare is currently undertaking a $1 million refurbishment of the facility which is directly related to enhancing the living environment for all our residents at Bundaberg.
"We take our duty of care very seriously and will not accept anything less than high levels of care, dignity and respect afforded to our residents."
Queensland Nurses Union secretary Beth Mohle said just because an organisation was accredited doesn't mean the care is as good as it could be.
In 2012 the AACQC, then known as the Aged Care Standards and Accreditation Agency (ACSAA), accredited a Southport aged care facility despite the fact assessors found there were "no staff on duty between 8pm and 6.30am.''
ACSAA assessors also identified management did not actively monitor staffing levels however the facility received accreditation for another year.
Secretary Beth Mohle said the QNMU had reported the issue and many others and would continue to campaign for independent public reporting on staffing, skill mix and quality of patient outcomes in aged care facilities and public and private hospitals. The QNMU's Ratios Save Lives campaign has long called for laws that require hospitals and aged care facilities to report how many patients or residents are allocated to a single nurse.
At the moment there are no laws that state even a single Registered Nurse (RN) be on staff at all times in an aged care facility.
In May 2016, Queensland became just the fourth government in the world to introduce nurse to patient ratios in public hospitals. The QNMU is determined to campaign to see the laws rolled out in private hospitals and aged care facilities.
Partner loses hope after 4 years of complaining
HELENA Brabet feels as though to TriCare Bundaberg management, she has become "that woman".
She has a concertina file of the complaints she has made since her partner of 20 years, Ken Lawson, was placed there in 2013.
As power of attorney for his care, she visits Mr Lawson, 90, every day.
She cleans his glasses, puts in his hearing aids and scrubs food off his shoes, tasks she says overworked staff at TriCare cannot keep up with.
"The nurses don't seem to last," Ms Brabet said.
"His children live interstate, so I am all he has."
On May 20 last year, Mr Lawson was admitted to Bundaberg Hospital from TriCare with a laceration on his arm, sustained overnight.
"They couldn't tell me what happened," she said.
Mr Lawson has a stoma bag which requires regular emptying and replacing, and Ms Brabet had also submitted written complaints that staff were applying fresh bags without the powder that reduced irritation to his skin - leading him to attempt to pull it off.
She also recalled a "battle" to have staff administer newer, less irritating bags after Mr Lawson sustained a "severe rash" on his abdomen.
"Although the Resident Handbook is a very nice public relations exercise, it bears very little resemblance to (the) everyday patient experience," Ms Brabet said.
Around halfway through last year, however, she said she "gave up" fighting.
With health problems of her own, she cannot have Mr Lawson live with her.
But she continues to visit and eat lunch with him each day.
"He's worth it," she said.
"He's a good guy."
TriCare did not respond to the NewsMail's request for comment before deadline.
Petition gathers momentum
WHEN Heather Mansell-Brown approached the NewsMail to air her concerns about aged care staff being overworked and overstretched, she did not expect it to cover this much ground.
Her change.org petition, Stop Nursing Home Negligence, has just cracked 30,000 signatures.
She is one of a number of family members of Bundaberg TriCare residents who have spoken out about a lack of staff causing what they say is a poor standard of care.
"We've uncovered something," Ms Mansell-Brown said.
"We can't all be wrong."
She said the fact that senior TriCare staff were "responding in such a drastic way means I must have touched a nerve".
"But they keep repeating the same old rhetoric," she said.
The story has spread to a number of other media outlets across Australia, including Seven, Channel Ten and the ABC.
Since she spoke out and urged others with similar experiences to contact her, Ms Mansell-Brown said she had been "inundated ... with some very sad stories".
"It's been madness."
At a meeting organised by TriCare director Michael O'Connor for family members to voice their concerns, she said she told him: "I'm not going away, so get over it."
She has garnered support from politicians and unions too, having met One Nation Bundaberg candidate Jane Truscott - a former nurse - and the Queensland Nurses Union, which has linked the saga to its campaign for mandatory minimum staff ratios in aged care.
Pitt committed to aged care
MEMBER for Hinkler Keith Pitt says he concerned about the plight of elderly living in aged care homes.
"I have been contacted by constituents with concerns about aged care and last week I met with Minister for Aged Care Ken Wyatt in Canberra.
"Minister Wyatt indicated he was keen to come to the Hinkler electorate to discuss these issues directly with providers and industry groups.
"The Australian Government is committed to quality care for older Australians in residential care aged homes.
"Approved providers are required to ensure that there are adequate numbers of appropriately skilled staff to meet care recipients' needs.
"The Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs is currently conducting a Senate Inquiry into the future of Australia's aged care sector workforce. The Committee is due to present its report on April 28, 2017.
"I urge anyone who has concerns about a person receiving care in an aged care facility or in their home to contact the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner on 1800550552 or via the website: www.agedcarecomplaints.gov.au."
Letter to the Editor
WITH reference to the front-page article on Tuesday, February 21, I would like to respond to some of the comments written in this article. The initial complaint regarding being called in to assist was back in May 2015. This is nearly two years ago and I am sure the situation has improved since then.
My brother and I had our mother admitted to this facility five weeks ago and I can't fault the staff or the facility at this point in time. The staff have showed a tremendous amount of patience and compassion towards our mother who can often be very hard to please.
As to the claim that they are putting in new gardens, Mrs Brown must be entering the facility via a different entrance to the one that I use twice weekly; as recently as Wednesday I could see no evidence of anything being done to the gardens or the surrounding grassed area.
After speaking to the manager of the facility just after mother's admittance he did advise me that they were in the process of doing some extensive renovations over the coming months and are currently in progress.
The one thing that sets this facility apart from some of the others in the area is they are making improvements and not downsizing or closing wards down.
GREG AND GLEN DEWING