Home | News | ‘Left as a carcass in an aged care abattoir’: Tasmanian aged care home in the spotlight
Helen Valier (Ellie). Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety hearings in Hobart. Photo: Richard Jupe

‘Left as a carcass in an aged care abattoir’: Tasmanian aged care home in the spotlight

A Tasmanian aged care home only cared about saving money and cutting staff hours under their “pathway to break even scheme” leaving residents neglected, the royal commission has heard.

Southern Cross Care is one of Tasmania’s largest not-for-profit providers with nine facilities and almost 800 residents, but the royal commission heard testimony of poor governance at two of its facilities in particular – Yaraandoo and Glenara Lakes – which resulted in both falling foul of the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.

The Yaraandoo home was found by the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency not to meet 18 of the 44 expected quality outcomes. In January 2019, the newly established Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission found that non-compliance with expected outcomes for health and personal care at Southern Cross Care’s Glenara Lakes facility had placed certain residents’ safety, health or wellbeing at serious risk.

The watchdog found that staffing numbers had been cut by Southern Cross Care at both facilities in the preceding months.

Yaraandoo resident Brian Patrick Harvey wrote to the royal commission and described his time there, saying it left him felling “dehumanised”.

“When neglected like that, I feel I have been dehumanised, left as a carcass in an aged care abattoir ready to be processed like a slab of meat in a sausage processing factory at some future time,” he wrote.

“In these circumstances, pain dominates my whole existence. Every second of every minute seems like an eternity. No one seems to get this.”

Staff levels were dropped around October 2018 and the commission calculated that there was a reduction in care hours per day of 29, a drop of 13 per cent, or 50 minutes less personal care daily per resident.

Harvey’s widow Helen Valier appeared and told the commission that she recalls her husband’s care levels diminishing over time and at one point being told that two nurse team leaders would be taken off the floor to “to work on ACFI to increase funding”.

“I can simply say that he had an agonising death, which, on the information available to me and subsequently checked, was avoidable, inexcusable and unforgiveable,” she said.

The commissioners heard from current and former employees of the home who said that the home experienced a number of issues around the time of the cost cutting – known to management as “the pathway to break even” – such as little-to-no training, a lack of systems and policies related to care, and an inexperienced facility manager.

The employees said that management asked them to keep direct care costs to 60 per cent of income or less.

Former facility manager Patrick John Anderson said that he felt the pressure of the cost-cutting and that this affected his ability to roster.

“I could only honestly say that the staffing was purely financially decided,” he said.

Tammy Marshall, the clinical care coordinator at Yaraandoo, agreed that finance was at the forefront of Southern Cross Care’s agenda. When asked by counsel assisting Paul Bolster what she thought Southern Cross Care’s vision for the home was, she replied: “Well, there’s certainly a vision to save on costs.”

The commission continues in Hobart until Friday.

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