Patient records, drugs and even food supplies were stripped from a Gold Coast aged-care home that abruptly shut down, forcing the “rescue” of about 70 residents.
Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles says he’s utterly disgusted by what happened to vulnerable residents of the Earle Haven Retirement Village at Nerang on Thursday afternoon.
The federal government has promised a full investigation into the facility’s owner and an aged-care contractor, who are in dispute over money.
Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck says it appears a subcontractor trusted to nurse, feed and support the home’s high-care residents withdrew all services without notice and stripped the place.
“I will be looking to bring the full force possible of action onto those who put residents of Earle Haven in such a terrible position – it is simply unacceptable,” Senator Colbeck said on Friday.
Mr Miles said residents faced a distressing 11-hour operation to find them emergency beds elsewhere and called their evacuation a “rescue”.
He said a staff member called triple-zero to report the situation about 2pm on Thursday, and dozens of paramedics and health workers faced a chaotic scene when they arrived.
Bedridden residents, and some with dementia, didn’t have the level of care they needed, even though some staff stayed behind to look after them.
Mr Miles said drugs and patient records had been removed, with paramedics and doctors left to reconstruct health histories so residents could be treated and stabilised.
Even mop buckets and rubber gloves used to shower residents were taken from toilets and showers.
“It should never have happened,” he told reporters on Friday.
“There’s no excuse for taking their patient records, no excuse for taking their pharmaceuticals, for taking their mop buckets, for taking the gloves that staff would use to help them toilet and shower.
“The behaviour here, whoever is responsible, is just disgusting.”
Mr Miles said police would look at whether any offences had been committed.
He said federal aged-care regulators must determine how a commercial dispute was able to escalate into such an appalling situation.
“Whatever their internal disputes, there is no excuse for just walking out on them.”
Concerned next-of-kin with loved ones residing at Earle Haven Retirement Village can contact the Gold Coast Care Team via 13 Health (13 43 25 84) for info. Please leave your contact details if your call is not answered immediately, your call will be returned ASAP #GoldCoastHealth pic.twitter.com/yzxMpbX1Xf
— Gold Coast Health (@GC_Health) July 11, 2019
Dr Jeremy Wellwood from Gold Coast Health said it was immediately obvious to first responders that patient safety was at risk because there wasn’t enough staff to provide the necessary care.
“We’re so grateful we found other locations for them. This was a massive undertaking to transfer this number of patients.”
Scenes of ‘pandemonium’
The Queensland Nurses Union described scenes of “pandemonium”, with some staff ordered to leave the facility as medical equipment was being removed.
Union secretary Beth Mohle said it was an unprecedented failure in the aged-care system despite some staff refusing to leave and others who used to work there showing up to help when they heard what was happening.
The owner of the village, People Care, is embroiled in a dispute with a medical contractor, HelpStreet, which was trusted to operate the aged-care wing.
People Care says it decided to terminate its contract with HelpStreet and gave the contractor until August 9 to vacate the property but HelpStreet “decided to leave earlier”.
HelpStreet says People Care failed to pay it for its services and that meant staff were told not to show up for work on Thursday.
Earle Haven also has residents who live independently.
They haven’t been affected and remain in their homes.
The aged-care residents are now in limbo, with no permanent homes.
They are being cared for in other homes on the Gold Coast, with three taken to hospital as a precaution.