EARLE HAVEN: ‘We want to know what happened’
FORMER residents of Earle Haven will speak out next week about their fear and frustration at the sudden closure and evacuation of the Nerang nursing home wing, when a federal investigation into the collapse comes to the Gold Coast.
Speaking to the media for the first time yesterday, the chair of the federal inquiry into events at Earle Haven, Kate Carnell AO, told the Gold Coast Bulletin exclusively she is calling on staff and residents to come forward to testify about the chaos that resulted in the shock evacuation of 71 elderly people on July 11.
Ms Carnell was appointed to examine the circumstances leading to the collapse of the aged care service over a contract dispute between the operator, PeopleCare, and nursing contractor HelpStreet.
Ms Carnell, who has previously worked as co-chair on the Oakden Aged Care report that looked into a troubled facility in South Australia, said circumstances at Earle Haven were unique.
"We obviously see aged care facilities have financial troubles, go broke or have quality and safety issues - those sorts of things happen. The speed of this was the issue," she said.
Ms Carnell said the inquiry would also look into the emergency service decision making that led to the removal of residents.
According to Ms Carnell, the return of displaced residents to the nursing wing was not dependent on her investigation, which is due to make recommendations by October.
Instead, residents who had been moved into emergency accommodation were waiting on the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission to determine when they could return.
"I think it is a very reasonable question to ask, when they will be going home - and one we will be getting to the bottom of," Ms Carnell said.
"The important thing is to ensure the facility is safe and the operators have the capacity and resources to operate it.
"I am confident the commission is looking at it seriously.
"I am hopeful the commission will assist but it is a separate decision."
Her federal investigation would focus on the specifics of the collapse on the day and pool resources with a State inquiry and the ongoing Royal Commission into Aged Care.
Ms Carnell said the internal investigation did not at this stage have the power to compel witnesses to testify, but the recommendations did carry weight.
"We don't have power like that at this point, but I believe we could get that capacity should we require. If people refuse to give us the information we need," Ms Carnell said.
"We have the absolute support of the Minister for Aged Care. I have to say he and the Quality and Safety Commission certainly have the capacity to put sanctions in place if need be."
Ms Carnell did not suggest any laws had been broken.
"I would hate to jump to conclusions. Ultimately the outcome of the dispute is unacceptable, absolutely unacceptable and what happened on the day beggars belief," she said.
"What happened at that stage has been identified at that time.
"My experience previously is people who work in the aged care sector are hugely committed to their patients.
"At this stage we just don't know what happened."
Submissions could be made in any format and requests to provide information in person or over the phone could also be made.
"We want to hear about what happened on the day and look at the ramifications on the families and those wanting to return home," she said.
Submissions could be confidential and should be provided no later than Friday, August 30, 2019.
Further information about lodging submissions to Ms Carnell's inquiry was available by phoning (07) 3360 2647.
Ms Carnell's terms of reference did not include a more general review of the aged care system.