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Aged Care Ratios Campaign – the Earle Haven Crisis

24 July 2019

We cannot wait until the Royal Commission into Aged Care finishes in 2020.  Safe staffing laws must be introduced to hold aged care providers to account now, before any more elderly Australians are hurt or killed as a result of the under regulation and understaffing in private aged care.” [Beth Mohl, Secretary of the Queensland branch of the ANMF (the QNMU)]

The sudden closure of the Gold Coast aged care facility Earle Haven as a result of a contractual dispute between an Aged Care provider and a sub-contractor, highlights the dangers of under staffing and under regulation of private aged care facilities.  It has been widely reported that only one RN was left to look after the almost 70 residents on the day of the crisis, however as Ms Mohl pointed out, this is “not a shocking number.”

[T]his is business as usual for Australian private aged care. In fact, under Australian federal law, there is no legal requirement for even one Registered Nurse be on site at an aged care facility. So Australian private aged care providers can legally leave a single Registered Nurse with an uncapped number of residents. Or with no Registered Nurse at all.’’

During the crisis off-duty nurses and other staff rushed to the facility to help residents even though they had lost their jobs. Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles told the ABC that patient records had been taken from the facility and “storeroom after storeroom was cleared of anything that could be considered valuable.”  He said staff had to “reconstruct health histories and medication requirements for the residents, in order to stabilise them and provide them with their healthcare needs.”

The QNMU has written to the Federal Minister for Aged Care, Senator Colbeck to request unpaid Earle Haven nurses and staff receive emergency federal government payments to meet their daily living expenses and has called for a criminal investigation into the matter.

“What has happened at Earle Haven is a national disgrace… While the situation at Earle Haven is out of the ordinary, [it] highlights the problems facing elderly Australians in private aged care facilities almost everywhere,” Ms Mohl said.