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Two Queensland nursing homes 'immediate and severe risk' to residents

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A Gold Coast nursing home declared an “immediate and severe risk’’ to residents also flouted COVID-19 rules designed to protect its vulnerable aged residents, a snap government inspection has found.

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Southport Lodge nursing home on the Gold Coast and Japara Noosa at Tewantin on the Sunshine Coast, as well as 13 other nursing homes across the country, were found to have breached pandemic directives, potentially putting residents at risk during an outbreak of coronavirus, according to an Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (ACQSC) audit.

As well as the COVID-19 breaches, Southport Lodge at Labrador on the northern Gold Coast was also found to be short-staffed and its workforce was not “sufficient, skilled and qualified to provide safe and timely quality care and services’’.

“There are no registered staff available overnight to assess consumers who may experience a deterioration during this time,’’ the report said.

“The service did not demonstrate that the number and skill mix of management and staff is planned in a way that enables the delivery and management of safe and quality care and services.”

It is the second time Southport Lodge has been singled out as falling short of care standards.

In 2012, an audit of Southport Lodge found no staff were rostered on between 8pm and 6.30am.

That 2012 Aged Care Standards and Accreditation Agency report found there had been several incidents of “residents absconding, wandering and falling” at Southport Lodge while unsupervised.

The latest ACQSC findings identifying extreme failures in aged care follows the recent forced shutdown of another Gold Coast nursing home that also had its licence revoked.

Earle Haven nursing home at Nerang on the Gold Coast was shut down and its licence revoked in October 2019 after it closed suddenly three months earlier amid a pay dispute leaving 68 elderly residents homeless.

Shocking conditions at Earle Haven had featured in the Royal Commission into Aged Care, which heard 50 per cent of residents were physically restrained and 71 per cent were being chemically restrained with psychotropic medication in the weeks before it closed.

The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety began hearings in September 2018, with its final report to be delivered in a few weeks, by 26 February.

Queensland Nursing and Midwives Union secretary Beth Mohle said the latest ACQSC findings showed the failures in aged care were a direct result of systems failures stemming from the lack of safe staffing laws in Australian private aged care.

“Unlike childcare or hospitals, there are no laws that state how private aged care facilities should safely be staffed. As a result, private aged care providers can choose to run skeleton staff in order to boost profits. This is a national disgrace,” Mohle said.

“Unfortunately this is not a surprise, but we should be deeply concerned and ashamed as a country that our system has got to this state.”

Mohle said there were no minimum base staff requirement in aged care and no tying of funding to the provision of appropriate care.

“We have to fundamentally redesign our aged care system. Unfortunately, a lot of the blame is being put at the feet of aged care workers, but there’s simply not enough of them and there’s simply not the appropriate skills base.

“It’s the system that’s let everybody down. We need to start from scratch and rebuild the system.”

Chief executive of Aged and Disability Advocacy Australia, Geoff Rowe,  said the quality of aged care across Queensland’s 460 registered aged care facilities was “a bit hit and miss” with recent snap audits and inspections putting a “blow torch” to care standards.

“What really concerns me is that this is happening at a time there’s a spotlight on aged care, over the past 18 months we’ve had a royal commission that’s been looking at the quality of care in aged care,” Rowe told ABC Gold Coast.

“You’d think that would be a time providers would be on their best behaviour.”

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