Nursing homes exposed with a sexual assault cover-up, poor pain relief and call bells being left out of residents’ reach among a damning list of failures.
Nursing homes exposed with a sexual assault cover-up, poor pain relief and call bells being left out of residents’ reach among a damning list of failures.

Shocking neglect: Nursing home suffers nine fail govt audits

An aged care staffer sexually assaulted an elderly resident at a Queensland nursing home, which covered up the attack from other residents for five months, an official report reveals.

Call bells were left out of residents' reach, and elderly Queenslanders were left to die in pain, in shocking cases exposed by government spot checks this year.

Appalling failures were detected in nine nursing homes that flunked quality standards in Queensland this year, with some facilities breaching infection controls despite the deadly threat of COVID-19 to frail residents.

The federal government's Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (AGQSC) found that a resident in one Townsville home was sexually assaulted by a staff member left unsupervised on night shift.

And Infinite Care Cornubia, at Redland Bay, was slapped with a noncompliance notice last month for failing to prove it had isolated two sick residents with breathing problems - a symptom of the highly contagious COVID-19.

"There was no documented evidence to support isolation had occurred for two consumers experiencing respiratory symptoms,'' the audit report found.

The Uniting Church-run Blue Care Shalom Elders Village in Townsville was warned by the ACQSC on April 16 - at the height of the COVID-19 crisis - that "significant improvements are needed''.

"Staff have not treated all consumers with dignity and respect and the Assessment Team were advised by management a consumer had been sexually assaulted by a staff member,'' the ACQSC performance report states.

Appalling failures were detected in nine nursing homes that flunked quality standards in Queensland this year.
Appalling failures were detected in nine nursing homes that flunked quality standards in Queensland this year.

It says Blue Care "took action to support the consumer following the incident and has apologized unreservedly''.

"I am concerned the organization had in place a model of care that enabled staff to attend to consumers without supervision,'' the inspector's report states.

"In November 2019, whilst this model of care was operational, a staff member sexually assaulted a vulnerable customer.''

The report reveals Blue Care notified its board, contacted "relevant authorities'' and undertook an "independent investigation'' last December.

But it hid the sexual assault for five months from other residents, who were only told in March following the government spot check.

"I am of the view the provision of this information was not timely and should have been communicated earlier,'' the report states.

The report says the victim "has complex health needs'' - yet Blue Care failed to keep proper clinical records after the sexual assault.

"The organization cannot demonstrate the consumer affected by this incident was receiving safe, effective care in the period following the sexual assault, as for a significant period of time there are no entries documented in progress notes relating to their emotional psychological or general wellbeing,'' the report says.

" … the organization did not undertake a review of its workforce and workforce supervision following the sexual assault of a consumer by a care staff member on night duty.''

The Courier-Mail has asked ACQSC and Blue Care whether the staff member has been sacked and prosecuted.

Another Townsville nursing home - Bolton Clarke Rowes Bay, operated by RSL Care - was sent a noncompliance notice in April after government inspectors found that some residents were left to die in pain.

"Pain medication was not given when required or as directed by clinical staff,'' the audit report states.

"A consumer who entered the service from hospital had two incidents of aggressive behaviours towards consumers and others and was not assessed or reviewed following these incidents.''

The ACQSC check in January found that many residents had to wait more than 10 minutes for help after pressing their call bells.

ACQSC found "significant improvements'' are needed at Bupa's Tugun nursing home, due to sub-standard care and staffing.

The Gold Coast aged care home was sent a noncompliance notice on July 1, but ACQSC only made its finding public yesterday.

In its ACQSC's recently published audit of Bupa Tugun in September 2019, government inspectors criticized "disrespectful practices'' - such as leaving call bells out of residents' reach so they could not call for help.

Deficiencies in germ control, cleaning and staffing were also flagged in the scathing audit.

Inspectors found that "not all areas of the service environment are safe, clean, well maintained and comfortable.''

They noted "deficiencies in the cleaning and maintenance systems of the home such as furniture in communal areas was not clean or well maintained.''

"An airconditioning unit and hot water were not working and repairs have not been addressed in a timely manner,'' the report states.

The September audit found that Bupa Tugun failed to show it employed enough qualified staff to "enable safe and quality care and services''.

Residents told the government inspectors that although staff were "kind and caring'', they were "busy and care is rushed'', the audit report states.

"Staff interviewed are also not satisfied there are enough staff to enable them to provide safe and quality care'' it says.

"Although staff have appropriate qualifications, they do not consistently demonstrate they have the skills and knowledge to effectively perform their roles.''

Candice Care at Kings Beach has a current "noncompliance'' notice after failing standards for managing staff, risk and regulatory compliance a year ago.

Jymbilung House Aged and Disabled Care Services in Beaudesert was deemed non-compliant last month over problems with palliative care and pain relief.

Kal'Ang Community Care in Kawungan, near Hervey Bay, received a noncompliance notice last month when inspectors found some support staff were not trained in medication or diabetes risks.

Pyramid Residential Care Centre at Gordonvale, south of Cairns, was deemed in January to be non-compliant after breaching eight standards, including personal care, clinical care and staffing.

Taralga retirement Village Hostel at Jandowae, west of Kingaroy, was deemed non-compliant last month for failing to provide "timely'' medical care to elderly residents injured in falls.

"Registered staff do not have a clear understanding of consumers' current needs including chemical and physical restraint usage, wound care and pain assessments,'' the audit report states.

The Courier-Mail is seeking comment from the aged care homes.

Originally published as Shocking neglect: Nursing home shame as nine fail govt audits