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Hobart aged home ‘was like a closed shop’: consultant

Independent consultants tasked with examining eight sanctioned Bupa aged care homes felt the provider was not open to scrutiny and was like a closed shop.

The consultants told the royal commission into aged care they were asked by lawyers representing Bupa to remove the word “systemic” from a report detailing problems at its South Hobart home.

“Bupa just didn’t seem to like it,” Bethia Wilson from Wilson and Webster Consultancy said on Friday.

Bupa wanted the word systemic changed to “emerging themes”, Dr Penny Webster, who was also engaged as a consultant, told the inquiry.

The consultancy firm spoke with residents of the South Hobart facility and their families in November 2018 after the home was hit with sanctions the previous month for not complying with national care standards.

Wilson said staff at the home were hostile towards her and Webster.

In a meeting with residents, Wilson said a Bupa staff member stood in the room and wrote down the names of people who attended.

“It was like a closed shop. ‘We run things here, we don’t want outside scrutiny’,” she said.

The commission has heard Bupa implemented Australia-wide policies from 2016 to 2018 aimed at reducing staff hours to improve the company’s financial position.

One strategy was dubbed ‘Save a Shift’, where workers who called in sick weren’t replaced.

Webster told the commission there was a clear link between cost-cutting and the quality of care.

“The financial approach led to a very transactional approach,” she said.

“The view was that if you’re giving a service that takes five minutes, let’s see if we can make it three and half minutes and therefore we can save money.

“Time and time again we heard, ‘People don’t even say hello, people don’t engage with my parent or my loved one’.”

Bupa said it had reviewed the consultants’ report and implemented recommendations, including around the process for residents’ complaints, which was found to be lacking.

A Bupa spokesperson said any requests made around report wording were merely suggestions, and the report was independent and treated as such.

Webster said she got a strong impression from South Hobart residents that those who complained were labelled “troublemakers”, which led to problems not being reported.

“I put the word systemic in [the report] because I kept seeing the same problems over and over again,” she told the inquiry.

“There was a lack of accountability, lack of people management skills, lack of placing the resident as central to the decision making, and a focus on finances.

“To me that indicated that there was a systemic problem.”

The Aged Care Safety and Quality Commission in October 2018 found the home had not met 32 of 44 care outcomes. It regained accreditation in August.

The facility was one of nine Bupa aged care homes sanctioned in the second half of 2018.

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2 comments

  1. Since when did Aged Care facilities think they can dictate to a Government department – in this case, The Aged Care Safety and Quality Commission (formerly Aged Care Accreditation Agency)? And think they can get away with these absolutely atrocious infringements on basic human rights!
    These facilities really do think they’re above the legislation, don’t they.
    How dare they treat people like this!
    I have nothing but contempt for directors who have allowed their facilities to be run, for profit, to the detriment of our elderly citizens! Not good enough!
    Shame on you Bupa!!!

  2. The Aged care saftey and quality commssion is a joke.
    An agency without guidelines running providers into the ground.
    When they are held to account and are open being investigated ww will see the real issues

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