Aged care neglect exposed by whistleblower carer
ELDERLY residents have allegedly been left hungry, crumpled on the floor and left for days between showers in explosive allegations aimed at Chinchilla's Illoura Aged Care facility by a whistle- blowing carer and family members of ex-residents.
A carer at Illoura, family members of a former resident and a family member of a current resident approached Chinchilla News about alleged neglect they claim to have witnessed.
The carer, who wishes to be anonymous, claims to have seen first-hand neglect of elderly residents, including residents not being showered for days, while family members of residents report staff failing to change bandages, not checking in with residents until after midday and not even knowing how to put in hearing aids.
Illoura Aged Care is run by Southern Cross Care and responded to the allegations.
In January a spokesman told Chinchilla News it was "not their policy" to respond to specific issues but confirmed maintaining sufficient levels of staffing was a "perennial" issue for the Chinchilla facility.
At the time the spokesman said the company had embarked on a "listen and learn" tour of facilities to talk to families, staff and residents and collate feedback.
The spokesman said Southern Cross Care was "keen" to start partnering with the Chinchilla community to "resolve staff attraction and retention" issues.
Di McIntyre alleged she saw staffing issues result in neglect when she visited her late mother-in-law, Maureen, at Illoura.
Maureen was diagnosed with congestive heart failure in November and, after a month-long stint in hospital, moved in to Illoura.
Within three weeks of her living at the facility, the family demanded she be taken back to hospital.
"I was totally blown away," Mrs McIntyre said.
"We would visit her after lunch and she was still in her nightie with breakfast dishes in front for her."
Due to her congestive heart failure, Maureen experienced a build-up of fluid in her legs, which required bandaging daily.
If her bandages weren't changed, her legs would seep and leave puddles of fluid on the ground.
But Mrs McIntyre claims they were only changed every four days - the length of time she claims was between Maureen's showers.
"The care is non-existent," she said.
Family's final straw
The final straw came when Mrs McIntyre's husband came to visit his mother, only to find her lying crumpled on the floor, trying to call the doctor after two days of staff allegedly refusing to call one for her.
"He demanded the ambulance come and pick her up and take her to the hospital," Mrs McIntyre said.
"It took her an hour and a half to have her pressure sores documented before she was put into hospital."
When the ambulance came to collect Maureen from Illoura, they had to remove her recliner to make room. Beneath it, Mrs McIntyre claims, they found mouldy vomit.
Maureen died two days later, on January 5.
"Talking to one staff member, I've never been spoken to so condescendingly… for asking for better care for my mother-in-law," Mrs McIntyre said.
In February Mrs McIntyre received a bill from Southern Cross Care for a week of Maureen's care - dated a week after she had died.
The Illoura staff member confirmed the impacts of understaffing both on residents and on the physical and mental health of exhausted staff.
"Half the people come in for a week and they leave again because they can't deal," they said.
"We're run off our feet, and some people just don't show up for shifts."
The staff member and family members said they believed a lack of staff and following procedure to be at the heart of the problem. When contacted again this month, a Southern Cross Care spokesman said the company had "invested strongly in our staff at Illoura" since February.
"A nurse advisor has been in place to help existing and new staff, while a national recruitment campaign has secured three registered nurses to relocate to Chinchilla," they said.
"An extra 19 personal carers have been recruited in the past six months.
"We are still looking for one more registered nurse, as well as a pastoral carer ... and we are waiting for a new chef to begin work.
"All of these measures were part of our response to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission February, which highlighted issues with human resource management, medication management, and emotional support, during a visit in February."
The spokesman said the commission had since visited and found issues had "been resolved".
In February Maranoa MP David Littleproud announced $454,740 to upgrade Illoura Village.
Funds will be used to upgrade residents' rooms to resolve accessibility issues, increase safety, install slip-resistant flooring, and upgrade cabinetry.
"This project goes a long way to making sure seniors feel comfortable, satisfied with the residence and close to their family and friends," Mr Littleproud said.
But for many, like Mrs McIntyre, the damage is already done.
"It was always traumatic walking through the door, knowing what we were going to be facing, and some families have had loved ones in there for years," she said.
"I know a lot of people up there who are really unhappy with how their loved ones have been treated but no-one's game to have a voice, enough's enough."