Oct 25, 2021

Overworked staff, rough handling, poor infection control: Victoria’s aged care homes under the microscope

Aged care resident chair window

A News Corp investigation has revealed that 155 aged care homes failed quality inspections around the country in the last year, and 32 were hit with sanctions or ‘notices to agree’.

Over the course of the year, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissiona inspected 3,600 aged care homes in total.

In Victoria, five homes were slapped with sanctions or ‘notices to agree’ after 33 homes failed quality inspections over the course of the year, a Herald-Sun report has noted.

At Bupa Bendigo, an inspection in June 2021 found the home’s “process to escalate and act on consumers exhibiting respiratory symptoms (indicating a potential infection) is not effective and COVID-19 monitoring charts were not up to date.”

“At the time of the site audit, minimum standards for infection control prevention and personal protective equipment were not evident,” a report on the inspection also noted.

However, the provider acknowledged “there was a miscommunication between staff regarding the consumer exhibiting respiratory symptoms” and said it has “provided further education to staff in relation to their responsibilities, including that of wearing masks.”

In August, Bupa Bendigo was reaccredited until February 2023.

An audit of Bupa Donvale in May found that residents had been injured through poor management of falls and manual handling.

​​“Consumers have sustained bruising and skin tears in relation to poor manual handling processes,” the report noted.

Another resident fell 14 times in seven months, while another suffered bruises and skin tears after five falls in a single week.

“The approved provider was unable to demonstrate effective management of risks associated with falls, medication, skin integrity and manual handling. 

“This ineffective management of risk has led to consumers sustaining injury,” the report noted.

Following an assessment in May, Bupa Donvale was reaccredited until July 2023.

In April 2021, an inspection of Bupa Clayton found the home was short-staffed. 

“Consumers stated staff are often rushed when providing care,” the assessment report noted.

“Consumers are adversely impacted by insufficient staffing and can experience delays in having needs met,” the report stated.

Staff shortages affected helping with activities of daily living, assisting consumers with meals, cleaning, continence care, supervising vulnerable consumers and supporting consumers with activities.

The regulator saw consumers “left unattended when in need of care and where staff were rushed when delivering care.”

A letter from the home’s management to the regulator refuted some of the claims, and said it is hiring more staff.

Bupa Clayton was reaccredited in June until mid-2024.

Suzanne Dvorak, Bupa’s managing director, told the Herald-Sun that all three Victorian homes were reaccredited by the regulator after implementing improvements.

“The focus in all our homes is on ongoing improvements and providing the high quality aged care that our residents and their families expect and deserve,’’ she told the Herald-Sun.

An audit of Ashleigh House Hostel in July found some staff failed to wear masks properly and the home wasn’t effectively screening visitors.

The aged care home “is not consistently minimising the risk of infection occurring or in line with best practice. 

“Staff were not always practicing correct usage of personal protective equipment, including masks being worn incorrectly,” the assessors wrote.

“The outbreak management plan did not have all [the] information required.”

The home’s manager, Sale Elderly Citizens Village Inc chief executive Chris Beckman, told the Herald-Sun the home’s problems “have been rectified’’.

In July, Ashleigh House Hostel was reaccredited until July 2023.

Hope Aged Care in Swan Hill was audited in April 2021, with the regulator finding the home was not adequately prepared for a COVID-19 outbreak.

The regulator found “deficits in the outbreak management plan.” 

There was no site-based Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) lead and insufficient PPE supplies. Staff did not wear face masks properly and there were not enough disinfectant wipes available. The donning and doffing station locations were unclear and hand hygiene and PPE training was insufficient. 

In response, the provider said cleaning staff had been given better instructions regarding COVID-19 outbreak cleaning guidelines.

“The outbreak management plan has been reviewed and addresses the deficits identified,” the report noted.

An IPC was nominated and additional supplies of PPE were also received.

“Correct face mask practice has been reinforced through staff meetings and monitored daily.”

Hope Aged Care in Swan Hill has been reaccredited until December 2022.

COVID-19 has had devastating effects on aged care homes, from the harrowing death toll last year to the forced isolation only now being eased. The only silver lining is that the sector might have learnt, with the assistance of the regulator, important lessons about how to prevent the spread of infection, thereby keeping residents safe should they face outbreaks – of COVID-19 or another dangerous disease – in the future.

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