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Residents Of Australian Aged-Care Home Starved, Says Watchdog Body

by Gopalan on  December 16, 2008 at 6:32 PM Senior Health News   - G J E 4
Residents Of Australian Aged-Care Home Starved, Says Watchdog Body
Australia's watchdog for aged-care facilities has slammed a centre in Brisbane, capital of Queensland, for failing to take adequate care of its inmates.
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The indictment of the Raffin Place facility by the Aged Care Standards Accreditation Agency listed a series of problems - inadequate nourishment and hydration; failure to identify, monitor and respond to unplanned weight loss; failure to refer residents to appropriate allied health professionals such as dieticians; and inadequate supervision of staff practices.

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Close on the heels of the report, the Federal Government imposed sanctions on the Raffin Place, including a cut in funding and the imposition of qualified medical personnel to oversee improvements. The government has also made it clear that funding will not be reinstated until the home meets national standards.

"This is about the protection and the welfare of frail and aged Australians,'' federal Minister for Ageing Justine Elliot said.

"There were no appropriate systems in place to monitor and respond to unplanned weight loss; that there had been no reassessment of their dietary and nutritional needs; and that several residents had allegedly received fruit products to which they were allergic,'' a spokeswoman for the minister said.

Queensland Nurses Union assistant secretary Beth Mohle said the union was concerned about aged care across the state as the skill mix was unbalanced and those working in the industry were not paid well.

"There's such a huge pay differential between aged care and the public sector,'' she said.

"There are issues related to the correct mix of staff and it makes it difficult to attract people if there's a big difference in pay structures,'' Ms Mohle said.

"We want a balance. You need the right mix of personnel."

But some residents have been quoted as saying the watchdog was crying wolf unnecessarily and they were doing fine at the centre.

"It's marvellous here," said John Walker, 86, who has lived there for the past two years.

When asked if he had noticed any residents suffer dramatic weight loss, Mr Walker referred to his own stomach.

"I wish I could lose some weight," he said.

Kathryn Nelson, whose mother passed away at the nursing home last Friday, had nothing but praise for her mother's final resting place.

"This is what we called her home, because it was her home," Ms Nelson said.

"My mother stopped eating in the last four weeks of her life here, but that was no reflection of the care she received.

"She was sick, ill, and she didn't want to eat. It was her choice, and a human will like hers was something the staff here could do nothing about, I firmly believe."

She said her 84-year-old mother Joan Pollard never complained of the care she received at Raffin Place.

"She loved it here, and I loved visiting her here," Ms Nelson said.

Aged Care Australia Association chief executive Rod Young blamed a Federal Government failure to provide adequate wages for aged care workers for problems within the industry.

"We have continually struggled to attract well trained and qualified staff to the sector because we can't offer them decent wages," Mr Young said.

According to the National Aged Care Workforce Census and Survey released this month, the proportion of registered nurses working in aged care homes decreased by four per cent in five years - from 21 per cent in 2003 to 16.8 per cent in 2007.

"You can have a severely demented and severely frail resident who will not eat unless someone sits alongside them for 20-30 minutes," Mr Young said.

"With the severe staffing shortages we are suffering there is no chance a staff member has the time available to sit down and watch a resident eat every meal of every day."

In the census, aged care workers expressed concerns about pay and the little amount of time they could spend with the residents they were caring for.

Aged Care Queensland chief executive Tim Kardash said the sanctions levied against the Calamvale facility did not reflect the care provided there.

"Often this can just be a staffing issue," Mr Kardash said.

"What is happening in practice may not be correctly translated to paper, but unfortunately the Agency makes their decisions based on the paperwork."

He cited the workforce census, which showed two-thirds of carers worked part-time in the sector.

"There is an over-reliance on casual and part-time staff, purely out of necessity. It is most likely that those casual staff are less efficient with paperwork and are unfamiliar with the residents and procedures and protocols of every facility they work at."

Mr Young said the alleged failure of Raffin Place, operated by Domain Aged Care, indicated any care provider could be found "wanting" under what he said were the agency's unrealistic standards.

He said Domain Aged Care had an excellent record in the industry and was well respected by other service providers.

"I was not aware of any problems in the home," he said. However he admitted he was not abreast of the situation until learning of the minister's statement yesterday.

The nursing home management is organising a meeting for residents and their families to discuss conditions at the nursing home with them.

With the severe staffing shortages we are suffering there is no chance a staff member has the time available to sit down and watch a resident eat every meal of every day."

In the census, aged care workers expressed concerns about pay and the little amount of time they could spend with the residents they were caring for.

Aged Care Queensland chief executive Tim Kardash said the sanctions levied against the Calamvale facility did not reflect the care provided there.

"Often this can just be a staffing issue," Mr Kardash said.

"What is happening in practice may not be correctly translated to paper, but unfortunately the Agency makes their decisions based on the paperwork."

He cited the workforce census, which showed two-thirds of carers worked part-time in the sector.

"There is an over-reliance on casual and part-time staff, purely out of necessity. It is most likely that those casual staff are less efficient with paperwork and are unfamiliar with the residents and procedures and protocols of every facility they work at."

Mr Young said the alleged failure of Raffin Place, operated by Domain Aged Care, indicated any care provider could be found "wanting" under what he said were the agency's unrealistic standards.

He said Domain Aged Care had an excellent record in the industry and was well respected by other service providers.

"I was not aware of any problems in the home," he said. However he admitted he was not abreast of the situation until learning of the minister's statement yesterday.

The nursing home management is organising a meeting for residents and their families to discuss conditions at the nursing home with them.

However, Domain Aged Care, which runs the home, says it is confident none of the residents are at risk.

The company has released a statement saying it takes the health and well-being of residents very seriously and is co-operating with the Federal Government.

Accreditation assessors will monitor the 117 residents.

Source: Medindia
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