Resident fights for life after nursing home chaos
A NURSING home resident was believed to be fighting for life after suffering a serious fall following their evacuation from a Gold Coast aged care facility that shut down abruptly on Thursday.
The Courier-Mail understands the frail elderly woman fell and hit her head after being moved from Earle Haven nursing home at Nerang in a mass emergency evacuation on Thursday.
She was one of 71 evacuees from Earle Haven to local hospitals and other nursing homes by ambulance after the high-care facility controversially closed amid a bitter contractual dispute between the 77-year-old multi-millionaire owner and an aged care contractor running the home.
The debacle, branded by state and federal ministers as "disgusting" and "outrageous", went from bad to worse early yesterday when one of the residents who had been evacuated fell and was taken to hospital in critical condition.
The incident has further angered upset relatives, health care workers and officials.
As shock photos emerged from inside Earle Haven showing patient records strewn across the floor, cupboards stripped bare, medicines packed in boxes and distressed residents being comforted by health workers, furious Health Minister Steven Miles revealed police would investigate.
Federal Aged Care Minister Richard Collbeck vowed to bring the "full force" of the law against those who had "put the residents of Earle Haven in such a terrible position".
But Earle Haven owner Arthur Miller said he was not to blame for the mess and said he planned to re-open the nursing home "once we make sure everything's all right".
Mr Miles, who visited Earle Haven on Thursday as residents were being taken to three hospitals and seven other nursing homes, said the facility had been stripped bare and patients left without food, medicines and bedding.
"Storeroom after storeroom was cleared of anything that could be considered valuable," he said.
"Our health staff had to reconstruct health histories and medication requirements for the residents in order to stabilise them and provide them with their healthcare needs. It's just not good enough.
"Whatever their internal disputes (between Mr Miller and contract operator HelpStreet Villages), there is no excuse for just walking out on them (the residents).
"There is no excuse for taking their patient records, no excuse for taking their pharmaceuticals, for taking the mop buckets and gloves that staff would use to help them toilet and shower ... the behaviour here, whoever is responsible, is just disgusting."
Mr Miles said he believed electronic patient records were missing but some paper records had been retrieved.
He said he had also asked Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young to investigate whether medicines had been properly removed and stored.
Senator Collbeck expressed "deep concern and anger" and pledged a full investigation into the situation at Earle Haven, which receives federal subsidies.
"I find it simply outrageous that a contract dispute could escalate to the situation that it did," he said.
"I will be looking to bring the full force possible of action on to those who put residents of Earle Haven in such a terrible position - it is simply unacceptable."
HelpStreet boss Kris Bunker, who on Thursday accused Mr Miller's company People Care of failing to make payments, yesterday referred media to his lawyer, who declined to comment.
Mr Miller said: "They (HelpStreet) created that mess we have now. Unfortunately, we made a mistake and never should have let those people run the thing. We will run the aged care ourselves and bring the residents back."
Mr Miller's lawyer, Gerry Epstein, said People Care had moved to terminate HelpStreet's services after complaints from staff and residents about Earle Haven management and insurance issues.
He said People Care and Miller Enterprises, which owns Earle Haven, were financially strong' and there was 'no suggestion' they were insolvent or faced liquidation.
A family member of two nursing home residents, Lloyd Evans, said he was first alerted to the potential problems at the facility after noticing an extra $7000 had been charged to his in-laws' accounts.
"My wife was actually going down to see them about the fee issue on Thursday when we saw what was happening," Mr Evans said.
Lorraine Cook, whose husband John is a dementia patient and lived on site, claimed she had been overcharged $1400 this week.
Rhonda Perry said she was also shocked to discover that her mother-in-law's account had already been charged for the next month.
"Everyone out there needs to check their automatic debt," she said. "Our money had been taken out when it was not due until the 28th of this month. It was $1600 charged to us by HelpStreet."