More details have emerged about the sudden closure of a Gold Coast nursing home last month that forced the evacuation of 70 elderly residents.
The Aged Care Royal Commission today took a closer look into the shutdown of the aged care facility at Earle Haven Retirement Village at Nerang.
It heard a contract dispute came to a head after a contractor was given a month’s notice that its agreement was being terminated.
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Contractor Help Street made a demand for $3 million for a breach of contract less than 24 hours before the facility was shut down.
The Commission also heard details of distressed elderly patients who weren’t sure about what was going on.
Cary Strong from Queensland Ambulance told the hearing of one woman who was inconsolable as she was being moved.
“She was approximately 92, very distressed, very disorientated, crying, her daughter was there she was crying as well.
“Trying to get the elderly lady to settle down and comfort her and kept crying and screaming.
“She thought her daughter was her mother and kept referring to her mother to please stop this.”
Read more evidence from the Aged Care Royal Commission below:
EARLIER @ 4.00PM: The owner of the Gold Coast nursing home that shut down suddenly, has told the Aged Care Royal Commission he didn’t know what was happening until a fleet of ambulances arrived.
Arthur Miller from aged care provider People Care said he was in his office when he noticed the commotion.
“I saw the ambulance and the lights flowing around and so I try to find out what happened,” Mr Miller said.
“Because normally ambulances come to collect the residents but I saw the Police as well there and that’s when I decided to investigate and find out what happened. “
“I didn’t know that then they were going to move the residents. I didn’t know that,” he said.
Mr Miller confirmed he gave contractor Help Street one month’s notice on July 8 that he was terminating their agreement.
But he said with the advice of lawyers, they had a plan to continue operating.
“Their idea is there is a time so we can re-hire the employees back to People Care and continue to look after the residents in a proper manner and rectify what was happening with Help Street,”Mr Miller said.
The Commission had earlier heard a meeting was held in March were residents and families raised concerns about the quality of care being provided to residents.
Mr Miller was asked by Counsel Assisting Paul Bolster what his view of Help Street’s performance was running his facility following that meeting.
“Very poor”, he replied.
But he denied telling staff he had received complaints from families that the care in the home was “terrible” and “rubbish” and that he no longer wanted Help Street there.
“That’s not true, that’s not true,” Mr Miller said.
Mr Miller criticised Health officials for failing to consult him about the situation at the home.
“If the health department came to talk to me, we can organise to keep the residents, we had volunteer staff,” he said.
“Until now, I don’t have an answer there.”
EARLIER @ 2.00PM: The aged care provider at Earle Haven Retirement Village demanded millions of dollars from the home’s owner the Royal Commission has heard.
Help Street CEO Kristopher Bunker has been giving evidence via videolink at the Commission where it was revealed the company wanted $3 million from People Care to resolve their dispute the night before the shutdown.
Mr Bunker says the demand was made on July 10 after People Care advised it was terminating their agreement.
The Commission has heard Help Street wanted half of it by midday the following day and the remainder by August 9.
“That was one solution for breach of contract, there was the option to discuss that further which we weren’t given the opportunity to do.”
However after questioning he did concede a counter-offer was made by People Care but it was only for payment up until June 30.
Mr Bunker says the company faced folding if it didn’t receive payment.
“We were concerned with no payment from People Care that Help Street Villages would not be able to trade,” Mr Bunker told the Commission.
Mr Bunker insists it was People Care that made the decision for Help Street to leave, despite confirming removalists had been organised beforehand.
He also confirmed talks were held among senior Help Street staff about a back-up plan if they were forced out.
“As a team we discussed the concerns that we had about keeping our staff on site so we looked at the options.
“My concern was that they may not choose to stay and continue to work when we discussed with them that we might not be able to continue to trade.”
UPDATE @ 12.15PM: The Aged Care Royal Commission has heard plans were hatched to call Triple-zero and remove equipment from the Earle Haven Retirement Village, several hours before residents were eventually evacuated.
Karen Parsons, Executive Director of aged care provider Help Street confirmed they discussed calling emergency services at a meeting at 9am on July 11, the day the facility was forced to shut.
“Kris Bunker (Help Street CEO) directed us or directed the team to maybe put some strategies in place due to the concerns he had with (People Care CEO) Mr Miller and the way he may react to the communication they had between each other.,” Ms Parsons told the Commission.
Ms Parsons said they were worried that they would be locked out of the facility.
“Yes there was a concern about that, he never really knew what Mr Miller would do, he was quite volatile.
Ms Parsons insists the priority was always about the patients.
“To make sure our residents were going to be safe because we didn’t know how Mr Miller would have reacted to the correspondence between the two parties. “
The Triple-Zero call was made later that day at 1.33pm.
Ms Parsons has also confirmed that computer servers belonging to Help Street were removed from the facility the night before on orders from CEO Kris Bunker, but says she was told it was for an upgrade.
Counsel Assisting the Commission, Paul Bolster asked if that was something Mr Bunker normally involved himself in.
“No, because he lives overseas,” Ms Parsons replied.
She also confirmed that Help Street staff removed more than a dozen mattresses.
“Only mattresses that Help Street had purchased and there was only 14 of those and they were replaced with People Care equipment.
“We didn’t take the ones that had people on them. ”
EARLIER @ 11.30AM (by Monique St Clair) : The Aged Care Royal Commission has heard the moment a call was made to Triple-Zero when a Gold Coast nursing home shut down suddenly last month.
The Commission has today turned its focus to the Earle Haven Centre in Nerang, which saw more than 70 elderly patients evacuated because of a contract dispute.
The Commission is set to hear from a variety of witnesses in relation to the shock closure, including the owner of the facility – People Care Pty Ltd – and the sub-contractors HelpStreet Global.
Other witnesses include staff at the facility and a responding ambulance officer.
One of the first pieces of evidence to be heard was the triple-zero call made by a staff member on the day of the evacuation.
Caller: “I need to do a bulk one. We’ve just gone into administration, and staff have gone home,” the staffer told Ambulance on the phone.
“It’s not safe for our residents to be here anymore.
“We’re going to need to pick up as many people as they can, and take them to as many places as they can.”
Operator: “How many potential patients are we looking at?”
Caller: “We have – I’m going to say about 60.”
Operator: “Oh my goodness, OK, do they all need to go to hospital?”
Caller: “69… um.. 69 residents… I would say … of 69, I’ll call a couple of families, possibly 60 will need to go.”
Operator: “Have all the staff left have they?”
Caller: “They have gone home yes.”
One of the first witnesses to be heard from was the responding officer from Queensland Ambulance Service, Cary Strong.
He says upon his arrival at Earle Haven, he found a removalist truck parked out front and property being removed from the premises.
“There was various items of furniture, boxes, and that was being coordinated as to what was the priority to be moved at a given time,” Mr Strong told the Commission.
“There was a large gentleman in a black uniform, which appeared to be like a cook or a chef’s uniform.
“He was directing the removalist as to what had to be removed.”
Mr Strong was also asked whether he was able to ascertain care records from staff.
“I asked for those initially – could I have patient care plans – I was advised they were on a computer.
“That computer had since left the premises.
“I asked then could someone or a small group of people go through both facilities and provide me with what documentation they could and bring them back to the reception area.
“There was a young lady in a black suit, provided me with two black folders and a set of keys – which I believed to have been the keys for the drug safes.
“Subsequently, we got fire evacuation documents, which allowed us to ascertain roughly who was on site and roughly to where they should have been on site.
“The young lady that I asked, to her credit, she actually hung on to both of those folders.
“She was positioned between two police officers from Queensland Police service. Due to the fact that she stated to me, other staff or other persons wanted those folders and they wanted to ‘punch her head in’,” Mr Strong said.
The hearings continue.