‘Frail, vulnerable’ aged care residents ‘abandoned’ as facility closes suddenly

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Frail and elderly residents from Earle Haven Retirement Village in Nerang, Gold Coast are facing temporary homelessness. Source: Google Maps

A Gold Coast aged care facility dramatically shut down yesterday due to a reported staffing dispute, forcing the emergency evacuation of about 70 elderly and frail residents, many of whom have dementia.

Police, paramedics and health workers arrived at Earle Haven Retirement Village in Nerang at around 2pm on Thursday when the facility “unexpectedly ceased operating”.

“This is distressing for residents and families of this private aged care facility. Our immediate concern is for the health and wellbeing of these residents,” Queensland Health confirmed in a statement on Thursday.

It is understood People Care, which owns Earle Haven Retirement Village, terminated a contract with HelpStreet, a management company trusted to run the aged-care facility, over a staffing dispute.

However, a HelpStreet spokesman told the ABC they left early because they couldn’t guarantee staff wages. A claim which was then denied by People Care owner Arthur Miller who told the Gold Coast Bulletin that his company had agreed to pay employee wages for the final month.

“Earle Haven Retirement has no debt, we have all the money for employees but there are a lot of things we have to take care of,” Miller said. “We told them they had up until the 9th of August to leave the premises, the decided to leave earlier.”

Steven Miles, Queensland Minister for Health, has since blasted the “disgusting” treatment of the “70 odd vulnerable Queenslanders”, calling on the Federal Government to step in and help resolve the situation. Miles added that, since writing to the Federal Minister yesterday, his staff have since held a teleconference with his secretary.

“The fact is regulation and funding of quality and safety [in aged care] is the responsibility of the Commonwealth and I expect them to investigate what went wrong here and how it can be avoided in the future,” Miles said in a press conference today.

“I think everyone involved has to take some responsibility. At the end of the day they are charged with taking care of 70 odd vulnerable Queenslanders. They make a profit from caring for 70 odd vulnerable Queenslanders, whatever their internal disputes there is no excuse for just walking out on them, no excuse for taking their patient records, pharmaceuticals, mop buckets … the behaviour here, who ever is responsible ist just disgusting.

“Store room after store room was cleared of anything that could be considered valuable. It’s just not good enough.”

Meanwhile, Dr Jeremy Wellwood, Executive Director, Gold Coast Health, said the local agency “made it their priority to make sure that these elderly frail residents were safe and adequately cared for”.

“We’re so grateful that we were able to find other locations for them in neighbouring residential facilities. This was a massive undertaking to transfer this number of patients safely to these facilities,” Wellwood said. “A small number of patients required admission to hospital.”

The Health Minister confirmed that Queensland Police remain on the scene today (Friday) and a spokesman for Queensland Ambulance Service revealed that a total of 20 ambulances were involved in the transfer of patients, as well as a team of 32 staff.

Starts at 60 has contacted People Care and HelpStreet for further comment.

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