- In short: Southern Cross Care Tasmania has apologised for a litany of issues in the care of John Daun, as his daughter blames staffing levels
- What’s next? Southern Cross Care Tasmania was criticised by the aged care royal commission but MP Andrew Wilkie worries the provider is not learning its lesson
The week after Melissa Daun’s father John passed away, his aged care home sent a sympathy card to her.
She sent it back.
John Daun had been living at Southern Cross Care (SCC) Tasmania’s Rivulet aged care facility, in Hobart, for two years, and in that time the provider had made repeated apologies to Ms Daun for a litany of errors in her father’s care.
She said her father had suffered three falls at the facility, including when he tried to take himself to the toilet after waiting too long for assistance.
She also said he had an overflowing sharps container left in his room, had his medication stored incorrectly, and had no pillow slip for several days with a wound at the back of his head following surgery for brain cancer.
There was also a significant delay in administering to him the pain relief drug Midazolam on the day of his death in November last year.
In correspondence seen by the ABC, SCC made admissions and apologised in relation to these incidents.
Mr Daun died five days after contracting COVID-19 at the facility.
His daughter Daun put many of the problems her father faced down to understaffing.
“There was a huge turnover of staff, and issues with consistency of care, and being able to maintain that dignity,” Ms Daun said.
After his death, a facility manager — the third person in the position in less than a year — emailed Ms Daun to say he was “very sorry for your experience with Southern Cross Care over the period John was admitted here”.
Ms Daun said that the apologies had never seemed to result in improvements in his care.
“You sort of feel like you’re banging your head against a wall,” she said.
“The week after Dad passed, I received a card of sympathy from the facility. I sent it straight back. I’m hoping no other families go through the stress my family did.”
Ms Daun said her family noticed problems with the care provided at the site from early on, but other options were limited and they did not want to put Mr Daun through the stress of moving again.
They noted that the lifestyle coordinator position was removed while Mr Daun was at the facility, and they believe that led to limited recreation opportunities for residents.
The family made numerous complaints to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (ACQSC) — a regulatory body introduced following the aged care royal commission.
But they were unsatisfied with the outcomes.
“The responses were always the same generic response,” Ms Daun said.
Southern Cross Care hasn’t ‘learnt its lesson’, Wilkie says
Independent Clark MP Andrew Wilkie highlighted his concerns with SCC Tasmania in federal parliament this week, calling on the government to expand the powers of the aged care watchdog.
He also urged the government to fully implement all recommendations from the aged care royal commission.
Mr Wilkie said issues with SCC Tasmania had been long-standing.
“You would think that Southern Cross learnt its lesson when it was singled out by the aged care royal commission, but clearly it didn’t,” he said.
“You would also assume that the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission would be on the beat, but, astonishingly, Southern Cross has not consistently been held to account by the commission for poor performance.”
SCC Tasmania is the state’s largest provider of residential aged care, with nine facilities.
Three of its facilities have ratings of 4 out of 5 stars on the government’s My Aged Care website, while another five facilities are rated as 3, which is marked as acceptable – including Rivulet.
The majority fall short on staffing, including Glenara Lakes in Launceston, which received one star on this measure.
Advocacy Tasmania has raised a range of complaints about the care at SCC Tasmania, and provided its concerns to Mr Wilkie, who summarised them in parliament.
“We’ve been trying for years to deal with the issues at Southern Cross Care”, Advocacy Tasmania chief executive officer Leanne Groombridge said.
“These are residents and our clients, who are so afraid, who are worn down, who are despairing basically,” she said.
“Their life, they say, is a dehumanising experience.”
The Health and Community Service Union said SCC Tasmania had among the worst staff turnover in the sector.
All SCC Tasmania’s homes re-accredited
Last year, SCC Tasmania announced it would be introducing a “household model” of care, which involved catering, lifestyle and leisure staff also caring directly for residents.
Unions claimed it was a cost-cutting measure, but SCC Tasmania described it as a more modern approach that would improve care.
In a statement, SCC Tasmania disputed Mr Wilkie’s claims regarding the level of complaints made about its facilities.
“We welcome scrutiny of the operations of our residential care facilities. All nine have been re-accredited by the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, most of them in the last 13 months,” the statement reads.
“The operations, executive and board of Southern Cross Care underwent significant renewal in the wake of the aged care royal commission. Changes included providing more face-to-face care for residents, improving our governance and upskilling our workforce.”
Responding to questions about the Daun family’s experience, Southern Cross Care said it did not comment on individual residents in the media.
“SCC embraces and supports the open disclosure policy which envisages that in some instances there will be less than optimal care and that these are acknowledged with the resident and their families and steps are taken to improve services based on these learnings,” a spokesperson said.
“Serious incidents are reported to the commission and a full analysis of the incident is undertaken and remedial action are implemented.
“Southern Cross Care also undertakes continuous improvement from reviews of our systems and processes as well as feedback from residents, their families and staff.”