Nursing home probed over treatment

A NURSING home at Goonellabah is being investigated by the Federal Department of Health and Ageing after allegations emerged they were leaving residents unattended while staff had their lunch.

Michelle DeAble contacted The Northern Star earlier this week after a family friend of 35 years now living at the Caroona Kalina nursing home told her of the situation.

The resident, who didn't want to be identified, needs two people to assist them when going to the toilet.

“(My friend) told me they (the residents) weren't allowed to ring their buzzer after lunch because no staff were on duty to take them to the toilet,” Ms DeAble said.

She claimed residents were either left in the dining room, or taken back to their own rooms, and told not to ring their buzzers for assistance between 12.30pm and 1pm.

Ms DeAble hasn't made a formal complaint, but said the practice had been going on for 'a few months'. She said she thought it was due to a staff shortage at the nursing home.

“It's a problem on the management side and rostering side, but who is suffering? The residents,” Ms DeAble said.

The Northern Star contacted Uniting Care Ageing, which runs the facility, and asked if it was true.

Uniting Care's North Coast regional director Julia Bellamy said no complaint had been made, but the centre activated its 'complaints investigation process' as soon as The Northern Star called.

Several days later she wrote back saying they had surveyed 'nearly all residents and over 50 relatives'.

“Positive outcomes for resident care have also been addressed by Caroona Kalina where a need for some improvement was identified,” Ms Bellamy said in her statement.

“This has included an increase in staff coverage over key meal periods to ensure continuity of care throughout the day.

“We continually seek opportunities to improve the lives of our residents and the care we deliver and have embraced this opportunity to review our services following community feedback.”

Ms Bellamy said Caroona had a 'comprehensive' comments and complaints process to allow people to raise concerns.

Federal Minister for Ageing and Richmond MP, Justine Elliot, yesterday said the department took claims such as this 'very seriously'.

“The health and welfare of frail and aged Australians is our primary concern,” Ms Elliot said.

“We make no apologies for taking swift action. That is why the department's Complaints Investigation Scheme was sent to the aged-care facility on an unannounced visit today.

“If the claims are substantiated further action will be taken.”

Michelle DeAble said she was happy Caroona had acknowledged there was a problem and hoped it would fix the problem without delay.

“I'm so happy that residents will not have to deal with this problem any more,” she said.

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