Earle Haven nursing home in Nerang. Picture: Adam Head
Earle Haven nursing home in Nerang. Picture: Adam Head

Aged care home owner in for royal commission grilling

A royal commission needs to examine opaque subcontracting arrangements in the aged care sector as it investigates the unprecedented abrupt closure of a Queensland retirement home, advocates say.

The aged care royal commission will grill the owner of the Earle Haven Retirement Village and likely the head of the subcontractor that managed the residential care facilities at the Gold Coast facility.

Advocacy body the Council on the Ageing said it was important the royal commission investigated how the Earle Haven situation could have been prevented as well as the systemic implications.

COTA Australia chief executive Ian Yates said nursing homes had closed before, but no one had ever "walked out".

Mr Yates said there were serious questions about whether subcontractors, as well as approved aged care providers, needed to be subject to regulatory vetting by the federal health department.

"I think there are questions about how much the department knows about approved providers subcontracting their activities and whether all subcontractors need to be regulated as well," he told AAP.

Queensland Nurses and Midwives Union secretary Beth Mohle also wants opaque subcontracting arrangements in the sector examined.

"We don't believe that they've got any place in a sector like aged care, because it's hard enough as it is to regulate without those sort of opaque arrangements," Ms Mohle said.

The July 11 shutdown that forced the emergency evacuation of about 70 residents was sparked by a financial dispute between Earle Haven operator People Care and subcontractor HelpStreet.

 

Earle Haven nursing home in Nerang. Picture: Adam Head
Earle Haven nursing home in Nerang. Picture: Adam Head

People Care owner Arthur Miller will be questioned at the royal commission's public hearing in Brisbane on Monday.

The royal commission will also examine HelpStreet's actions, although it is still confirming if the company's UK-based global CEO Kristofer Bunker will give evidence.

Both COTA and the QNMU believe there should be criminal implications if aged care residents are "abandoned".

"The royal commission needs to ask systemically how can it not be breaking the law to leave 71 people who are vulnerable and in need of medication and other assistance and walk out on them," Mr Yates said.

"If it's not a criminal charge, it should be." Ms Mohle said Earle Haven was a case study for the failures of regulation in aged care, which were partly related to inadequate staffing numbers and skills mix.

"We can't allow this to happen again," she said.

"We can't allow vulnerable elderly Australians to be placed in that position. It is just totally unacceptable."

Representatives from the federal health department and the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission will also be questioned about Earle Haven as part of the royal commission's week-long hearing about regulation.



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