The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) have instituted proceedings in the Federal Court alleging that Bupa Aged Care Australia Pty Ltd has made false or misleading claims to its aged care residents in close to a quarter of their facilities.
The ACCC claims that between December 2007 and June 2018, Bupa charged fees to thousands of residents at 21 of their aged care facilities around the country for services that they either did not provide or only partly provided.
The fees were often valued at thousands of dollars per year and covered a wide variety of services that were set out in residential agreements.
Hot breakfasts, bedroom air-conditioning, fine crockery, and travel escorts to outside appointments, are merely a fraction of the 145 instances that the ACCC intends to use in its Federal Court action.
The ACCC also conceded that it would be difficult to say just how many breaches of the law may have been committed.
“We allege that Bupa failed to provide or fully provide various extra services promised in residential agreements, but charged for them anyway,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.
“In some cases the alleged misleading representations related to services that were significant to the quality of life of elderly residents. The promised services were likely also what attracted many residents and their families to choose Bupa.”
“Misrepresentations in the aged care sector are particularly concerning because unlike many other services, it’s often difficult for elderly residents to move to another provider,” Mr. Sims said.
Danielle Robertson, founder, and CEO of Dr Care Solutions, has spent more than three decades gathering knowledge in the aged care, home care and disability space, and she now uses this knowledge to help clients find the best fitting care option for their family members.
Danielle spoke with HelloCare this afternoon and warned that service charges are something that consumers need to keep an eye on, as some providers seem to employ a don’t-ask, don’t-tell policy when it comes to charging for ‘additional’ services.
“I advise anyone with a loved one being cared for to take a very close look at the additional services that they are being charged for, and I know this from personal experience,” said Danielle.
“An aged care provider was charging my father for the newspaper – when he didn’t read, television – when he didn’t have one in his room, and they even tried to charge for meals as an additional service.”
“Some providers charge for services that you would think, should be a normal part of care. And they hold families over the barrel in that sense, and it becomes you can either take it or leave it.”
In a statement on the Bupa website, Bupa’s managing Director of Aged Care, Jan Adams apologised for the failures and outlined plans to reimburse those affected with interest.
“We apologise unreservedly to those residents and families who have been affected, and we are reimbursing them with interest.
“We are committed to addressing this to put things right. Those who may have been affected are being contacted directly by Bupa. To date, we have repaid approximately 400 residents. All impacted residents will be contacted and repaid.
“A review into this matter is ongoing and we have made significant changes to our systems to ensure this issue does not happen again. We engaged independent external advisers in the development of the repayment program to ensure a fair and equitable approach,” said Jan Adams.
These allegations by the ACCC against Bupa are the latest in a long slew of negative stories that have stained the image of Bupa in regards to aged care in Australia.
The Bupa Aged Care homes the ACCC alleged were affected include:
If you have any concerns, contact Bupa on 1300 072 311 (Monday to Friday, 9.00-5.00pm AEST) or email [email protected]