MEDIA RELEASE: Council on the Ageing welcomes Minister Colbeck’s strong response to Earle Haven Nursing home debacle and demands urgent review of laws

Australia’s leading advocacy body for older Australians and aged care consumers, COTA Australia, today welcomed the strong response of the Federal Minister for Aged Care, Richard Colbeck, to the crisis at the Earle Haven nursing home on the Gold Coast but called for the government’s response to include a review of the laws governing aged care providers and sub-contractors.

“What happened at Earle Haven is totally unacceptable” said COTA Australia Chief Executive, Ian Yates ‘It’s a gross violation of the human rights of the residents of the home and a blatant breach of the Aged Care Quality Standards”.

Mr Yates noted that the approved aged care provider, People Care, and their sub-contractor HelpStreet Group, seemed at commercial loggerheads and had issued contradictory statements about their dispute, but it was clear no-one had notified Federal aged care authorities about what was happening in advance of a call to 000 Thursday afternoon, reportedly by staff.

“The Federal Government needs to throw the book at those responsible for this totally unprecedented and reprehensible action and ensure that whoever is found to be responsible is never again allowed anywhere near an aged care service, including ensuring any other services in which they are now operating are placed under immediate review”.

Mr Yates welcomed Minister Colbeck’s description of the situation as “outrageous” and his committing to bring the “full force of possible actions onto those who put residents of Earle Haven in such a terrible position”.

He called on the government’s investigation to include determining whether providers have a legal obligation to advise the Department in advance of such situations and whether there are severe enough penalties for not doing so.

Mr Yates said ”It is clear that what happened at Earle Haven placed residents at the most serious risk, including of death, which warrants criminal action, as well as being an appalling and intentional breach of a number of Aged Care Quality Standards, starting with not treating people with dignity and respect.”

“If criminal action and penalties are not available to the government then it should enact changes to the aged care laws to provide itself with those powers”.

Mr Yates added that he had previously also argued to the government, and to the Royal Commission into Aged Care, that the Department must have the power to put in an Administrator to run facilities in trouble.

“We need providers and contractors to be criminally liable for advising the Department and the Quality and Safety Commission in advance of such actions and for the Department to be able to immediately step in and take over a nursing home” Mr Yates added.

The Council on the Ageing will continue to monitor developments closely and seek regular updates from the Department and Minister, which we appreciate having already received today.

Media contact: Ian Yates 0418 835 439, Hannah Craft 0423 377 965