Eight people dead: What’s going on with our aged care facilities?

Four residents have died in an aged care facility in North Queensland, just weeks after a similar incident occurred in

Four residents have died in an aged care facility in North Queensland, just weeks after a similar incident occurred in a hospital for the elderly. These worrying events have us wondering, what’s going on with Australian aged care?

In the most recent occurrence, four residents at the Mercy Place Westcourt Aged Facility (Cairns) died following a widespread viral outbreak. Residents and staff were tested for common viruses, with a majority testing positive for Influenza B. Over 60 people were infected.

Perplexingly though, the latest resident to die at Mercy Place “did not test positive for Influenza B”, health authorities said. Mercy spokesperson Anita Ghose added, “all activities and events in the retirement village will be cancelled this week until further notice”.

Meanwhile back in January, four elderly patients died at Herberton Hospital (Atherton) after becoming infected with human metapneumovirus. At least another six other also showed symptoms of this deadly condition. However, health authorities at the time defended their management of the metapneumovirus outbreak.

“Those who may have been at increased risk of being infected because of contact with cases in the hospital, including staff, visitors, relatives of those affected and residents, were all notified”, hospital director Richard Gair said at the time.

It’s cold comfort for the families of deceased residents at both Mercy Aged Facility and Herberton Hospital. As one Facebook user commented online, “More problems at these places? (Aged care) needs a good shake up it seems!”

Are you concerned about health and safety within Australia’s aged care facilities? Or should we view these viral outbreaks as isolated incidents? Share your thoughts below:

  1. neglect in aged care has been going on since 1980 that I know of , this one got caught how many of them dont

  2. Sylvia Harvie  

    The Nursing home Deane was in always went into close down mode when there was a virus until patients recovered. Deanes nursing home was in lock down the morning he died it was distressing for me as I could not say my final goodbye until they let me in just after he died. Although, in saying that it does stop the virus from spreading. Possibly saves lives. Sylvia

  3. Stories regarding Nursing homes always interest me, more the good stories, as the sad ones can bring back what I may have experienced in my many years working in them! Years back there were some I worked in should never have been operating but if you ever spoke up about something you were frowned upon! There were some “nurses” who’s profession would have been better elsewhere, but having said that there were great ones as well! Compassion and understanding is definately needed in these homes and without that the place fails….

  4. Christine Teague  

    We have placed my father-in-law in a nursing home and when visiting last week I witnessed a under arm and leg hook and asked to see their manual handling policies and was refused demanded a meeting and was told that some residents are allowed to be lifted this way. My father-in-law is not a weight bearing person and is fragile. Hmmm after saying was taking it further have received a apology and have had his manual handling charts emailed to me: Hence he is a hoist and slide sheet only. Have asked to be emailed weekly and have different people going to see him weekly as he also had not been out of bed in 2 weeks, unshaven, hair long. We live 3 hrs away and have now got to stay on top of this.

    • Christine Teague  

      Also he had on other peoples clothes that were disgusting and was told that maybe my sister-in-law had made a mistake but backed down when they found out she had taken photo’s. So now what has happened to the $300 clothes that we bought last July. Jess bought all new clothes and was told they had to name tag them so she marked them with permanent marker.

      • Janice McCulloch  

        Part of the problem in most nursing homes is due to staff patient ratios. Most are also overworked. Management & owners if the facilities don’t help in these situations. You will rarely get the kind of care you would give at home but then the equipment needed for non ambulant patients is too expensive for most to buy to use at home.

      • Kat Mann  

        Christine by law you are entitled to view the “Care Plan” for you father in law if you are down as next of kin. The majority of aged care facilities have a “No Lift Policy” The issues you are stating, you need to approach the facility and ask for a meeting, air all these “valid” concerns. You may find some explanations acceptable and resolutions for others.

    • Arnold  

      Hi Christine My father inlaw too suffers in aged care. Because y husband is not POA medical they refuse to deal with him. I would try Commissioner of aged care Complaints. One phone from them to the aged care facility and things changed for the better. I also suggested emailing the home of your concerns as you then have proof of your correspondence. Phone calls are hear say but emails are solid evidence. Also get pics of your father inlaw to send the commissioner but be careful not to include staff or other residents. Good luck!!

  5. Less and less staff to deal with fragile older people,and greedier and greedier people taking control .

    • jaywalker  

      Pam – you’re absolutely right. While ever aged care is privatised and is a profit making industry it will continue to get worse as shareholders have to be kept happy. I have complained several times to the so-called independent complaints body about various things about the home where my mother is and just get fobbed off every time. It’s time a Royal Inquiry was held.

  6. [email protected]  

    Talk about neglect Christine, that come down to the laziness of the personal care workers, what do s the care manager doing letting them get away with this, they should always be using a hoist and slide sheet, this helps prevent skin tears, and also prevents the careers hurting themselves (which would prevent them claiming work coverage). His clothes have probably been put on another resident. I have seen first hand the neglect some residents working in age care. This was one of the reasons I left the industry could not handle it. One care use to wet the shower to make it look like they had been showered, slapped a resident whilst toile ting him, hit another resident around the head with an incontinence pad, verbally abusing them, if they wouldn’t eat they wouldn’t take the time to sit and encourage them, I reported them but nothing came of it, until it happened to a X police officer who could talk for himself and reported the carer.

    • Anne Jones  

      As an OH&S manager when I worked in aged care, I am so dismayed to hear that carers are still using this method to move people and maybe hurt residents and the carers in the bargain. Management not keeping track of training I would say.

    • Robyn  

      My daughter was forced to get a job after her ex walked away. She had never had a job. So she did the level 3 aged care. 1st placement was put in a dementia unit unsupervised. One resident was resistive physical and verbal. My daughter had to shower her so she started to talk to the resident and discovered that she liked singing. Now daughter can’t sing to save her life but 20 mins later lady was showered dressed hair teeth and lippy applied. At no stage was my daughter offered assistance. Next day the management felt bad and offered daughter another area as nobody wanted to do this lady. They were gobsmacked when daughter asked to have her again. They were stunned after checking for themselves next day. Apparently this happens a lot with new staff being unsupported and unsupervised.

  7. I have worked in aged care.There are no where near enough staff.If the staff were using the hooking method safely i think it is kinder for the resident than a machine.Get in one of them and see for your self.Skin tears happen all the time with impaired skin.The majority of nurses do the best they can and only short cut so they can attend all tesidents in a timely manner.
    The whole problem is not for profit organisations are not properly funded to care for these very at risk residents

  8. Jennefer  

    This is what happens when you remove nurses from the floor staff and replace with carers and PCAs, emphasis on assistant. This is not to detract from the many caring people employed who do have a vocation rather than a job, but a lot are there because Centrelink paid for their courses (to get them off the unemployed figures). You really need to know why you are doing something not how. And why you should wash between the toes & etc…

  9. Suzanne  

    I had to place my aunt in an aged care facility and I cannot praise them enough. I worked away and there was no way they could know when I was coming to visit – and she was always clean, well dressed and cared for. She suffered dementia and it was very difficult and sad, but I was impressed by the kindness and care she received.

    • Jill  

      Fantastic Suzanne! I have only praise for Sundale in Nambour – had a very similar experience with two parents

  10. jaywalker  

    Suzanne – there are obviously both good and bad homes. The trouble is you can’t always tell till the person has been there some time and then it’s not easy to move. The staff where my mother is are wonderful (as is the beautiful new building) but they are overworked and underpaid. They do the best they can. When I complained about the food, I was fobbed off and when i wrote to the independent complaints board they too fobbed me off saying they couldn’t do anything unless I could give them a precise menu, mealtime, date etc. They said they would look at it on ‘their next scheduled visit’ but nothing came of it.

  11. It would be much nicer if we could keep many of the residents either in their own homes with assistance and services or families take them in and look after them either in their own home or a granny flat arrangement. I know that many will disagree as they have much too busy lives – but it can be one of the most rewarding experiences for families to care for an aged relative. Also there is no-one else to blame if they are unwashed or unshaven or mistreated! Aged care facilities can only do so much! They cannot replace the loss of ones independence or family! It is just too easy to put the aged away and visit occasionally to salve the conscience and complain about the care!

  12. Lynda Hanssen  

    Understaffing, lack of basic hygiene, lack of basic safe practice in infection control, poor education and lack of staff training all adds up to poor outcomes for clients.

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