Patient records, drugs and even food supplies have been stripped from a Gold Coast aged-care home that abruptly shut down, forcing the “rescue” of about 70 residents.
Earle Haven Retirement Village at Nerang was meant to be a safe place that cared for elderly people when their families could not.
Instead its vulnerable residents are in limbo following a contractual dispute between the village’s owner, People Care, and the aged-care wing operator, HelpStreet.
Lorraine Cook said elderly and frail husband John was distressed after being taken on Thursday from his room of the past two years.
John is a high-care patient suffering from dementia, diabetes and pressure sores caused by his inability to walk.
The 83-year-old is now being cared for in a nearby facility that Ms Cook, 73, said was crowded and failing to provide her husband the requisite level of care.
“I have really no idea what’s going to happen,” she said.
“They really haven’t told us much at all, except that it would be 24 to 48 hours until it would all be sorted, but that was yesterday.”
The federal government has promised to investigate the facility’s owner and an aged-care contractor who are in dispute over money.
Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck said it appeared a subcontractor trusted to nurse, feed and support the home’s high-care residents withdrew all services without notice and stripped the facility.
“I will be looking to bring the full force possible of action onto those who put residents of Earle Haven in such a terrible position – it is simply unacceptable,” Senator Colbeck said on Friday.
Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles said he was disgusted residents faced a distressing 11-hour operation to find them emergency beds elsewhere, and called their evacuation a “rescue”.
He said staff called triple-zero to report the situation about 2pm on Thursday, and paramedics and health workers faced a chaotic scene when they arrived.
Bedridden residents, some with dementia, didn’t have the level of care they needed, even though some staff stayed behind to look after them.
Mr Miles said drugs and patient records had been removed, with paramedics and doctors left to reconstruct health histories so residents could be treated.
Even mop buckets and rubber gloves used to shower residents were taken from toilets and showers.
“It should never have happened,” he said.
“The behaviour here, whoever is responsible, is just disgusting.”
The Queensland Nurses Union described scenes of “pandemonium”, with some staff ordered to leave the facility as medical equipment was being removed.
Union secretary Beth Mohle said it was an unprecedented failure in the aged-care system despite some staff refusing to leave and ex-staff offering to help.
“I don’t understand how anyone could do this to vulnerable, elderly Australians,” she said.
Earle Haven also has residents who live independently. They haven’t been affected and remain in their homes.
An Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission assessment team, along with the Department of Health, is now at the facility.
In a statement to the ABC, People Care director Arthur Miller said he terminated HelpStreet’s contract on Monday, with a 30-day transition period to a new provider, but claimed HelpStreet simply stopped providing service.
HelpStreet said it wanted an orderly transition for the sake or residents but told staff to stay home after People Care ceased payment.
Australian Associated Press