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Aged Care Commissioner Janet Anderson said the Commission is keeping an eye on MercyCare Rockingham. Picture: Supplied / MercyCare

WA home scrutinised following death of resident

An investigation by The West Australian newspaper found Perth's MercyCare Rockingham was rebuked over poor care by the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission for several issues in 2022; it has since become compliant.

One instance was around the facility's "end-of-life care, including pain management" to 83-year-old Kathleen Whewell, who died on February 3 this year.

Jane Dunbar, daughter of Ms Whewell, said an infection from a bedsore was not dressed and cared for.

Ms Dunbar recalled how she and her husband had to run from chemist to chemist on a public holiday last year to find drugs to help her mother die in peace because MercyCare failed to get her end-of-life scripts made up.

"It was unnecessary trauma," Ms Dunbar said.

"On Christmas Day, Mum was writhing in pain... she couldn't communicate at this stage other than by the look on her face."

"[MercyCare] said to me, 'You're going to need to go and get the medication', and I just dissolved."

Ms Whewell's son, Bernard, called on the Commission to shut down MercyCare.

"The lack of wound treatment was awful to see," he said.

"They need to be able to close this place down – we were horrified by the reports."

The Whewell family claimed their mother was given the wrong medication at times, and reports on her wound care were not updated.

A complaint was made before her death, which the Commission investigated for six months.

A report obtained found Ms Whewell's bedsore "was not recorded in wound charts as expected", "the service did not identify and escalate the wound deterioration to the GP", and "that the wound management plan was not consistently followed".

The report also said that prior to the death, staff had been given training opportunities in wound identification, management and end-of-life care.

Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner Janet Anderson said legally, every aged-care provider is required to provide safe and quality care and services to residents.

"In 2022, the Commission found MercyCare Rockingham non-compliant in two of the aged care quality standards relating to its personal and clinical care, and human resources," Ms Anderson said.

"The Commission conducted an unannounced site assessment in January and found the provider to have made necessary improvements and had returned to compliance."

"The Commission is continuing to monitor MercyCare Rockingham to ensure it delivers safe and quality care."

MercyCare executive director Phil Martin said that Rockingham has continued to be compliant following the site assessment in January.

"During 2023, the Commission conducted two thorough assessments of our Rockingham home, with the most recent one taking place in October," Mr Martin told Aged Care Insite.

"We are pleased to report that during these evaluations, our dedicated staff, processes, and systems all successfully met the Commission's rigorous standards."

"MercyCare remains committed to continual improvements – and while Rockingham has met all requirements of the aged care standards, we work with our residents and staff to continually identify opportunities to enhance our services."

Following the publication of the article by The West, Mr Martin sent an email to all MercyCare's staff titled "Media story – MercyCare Rockingham".

"I would like to remind you of our process for dealing with any media enquiries," he wrote in the email.

"Ms Whelwell's care transpired during a challenging period for our industry, marked by severe staff shortages, and the ever-changing landscape of the aged care sector."

"At MercyCare, we feel it is important to address this matter openly and transparently and share the progress we have made since then."

Aged Care Insite asked about the email, as The West reported MercyCare "issued a gag order to staff".

"It is standard practice for organisations to have a media process," Mr Martin said.

"The communication to staff was to let them know about the story, that we support and value them, and remind them of our process should they receive any media enquiry."

"We have people who are responsible for liaising with media while our dedicated frontline staff continue their important work with residents and clients."

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One comment

  1. Anybody whose English is so utterly deficient that they use the verb ‘to escalate ‘ in this way is probably not an ideal ‘fit’ in aged care.And how many man hours per week did they funnel into staffing agencies rather than hiring / training their own staff?

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