Claims of under-staffing, mistreatment of residents and poor quality care at Bupa Berry have again surfaced, after the facility failed a government audit last year.
In November 2018, the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency identified issues with non-compliance at Berry’s Bupa aged care facility, failing it on 35 of the 44 quality assurance standards.
The unmet standards related to poor medication management, poor documentation of pain management, unsatisfactory behaviour management, issues with cleaning and building maintenance, issues with staffing and unfilled shifts, inadequate catering and cold meals and poor communication to residents and relatives.
A close relative of two former Bupa Berry residents, who wished to remain anonymous, has come forward in the wake of the non-compliance, claiming her family members were subjected to “extremely poor quality of life” while at the aged care home.
The relative, who had family members at Bupa Berry for a total of five years between 2010 and 2015, said the hygiene standards were poor, describing the state of the rooms as “putrid” due to poor cleaning.
“Cleaning of [my mother’s] room was disgraceful, we found mouse poo when cleaning the room ourselves,” she said.
“There were many marks on the walls, vomit was not cleaned up properly, the dust was immense and the floors were putrid.”
In one of the more explosive claims, the relative said money had gone missing from their mother’s wallet, clothes from her cupboard, and jewellery from her armoire.
“[When] money was stolen stolen out of my mother’s wallet there was inadequate response and lack of security from [Bupa Berry] admin,” she said.
“Clothing also disappeared, never to be seen again after checking lost property, expensive jumpers especially.”
In response to the claims of theft, a Bupa spokesperson did not confirm or deny whether cases of theft had occurred at the Berry home, but said all incidents were taken very seriously by staff.
“Incidents of theft are unacceptable and we have procedures in place to immediately investigate any allegations of theft, including reporting these matters to authorities if items are not recovered.”
The handling of residents’ health was also poorly managed, according to the relative, who claimed she was not contacted when loved ones’ conditions declined, or when they were severely unwell.
“Lateness in calling me if she [my mother] declined in condition, or inappropriate calls late at night for small issues like new creams the doctor ordered for her skin which is not life threatening,” the relative said.
“When my mother died [I was told] ever so casually. There was no respect, no empathy.”
The relative said her family members weren’t referred to doctors when they were unwell, and that they had to push staff to call doctors.
“The staff did not know when to send a client to the hospital.”
Responding to the claims, the Bupa spokesperson said the Berry home maintained a regular schedule of GP visits based on residents’ general health and any medical conditions.
“Staff within the Berry home will always call an ambulance if emergency care is needed,” they said.
“Advanced care directives are given to family to complete on admission if they do not already have their own. Staff will follow up with family if an advanced care directive has not been returned or if a resident’s health condition starts to deteriorate.”
Under-staffing has been an ongoing issue at Bupa Berry, and the relative said this in turn led to a loss of activities for residents, who were often left alone, without any stimulation.
“Outings were good in the beginning then they hardly took [the residents] out,” she said.
“Mum would sit and scratch herself for hours because she was bored out of her brain. We took her out every weekend but there was only so much we could do.”
Bupa Berry recently hired 11 new staff members, with more recruitment underway, which it said would lead to more activities and stimulation for residents.
“We are reviewing our lifestyle activities calendar and continuing to seek feedback from residents on what activities they would like to participate in,” the spokesperson said.
The relative said while her loved ones were in the care of the home, they were treated “without respect or dignity”.
“What I saw was a deterioration in dignity, the residents weren’t held in high regard,” they said.
“Clothing was a big issue, nothing was ironed properly or put away nicely. Mum often looked like the bag woman and she was always so immaculate in her life prior, I was always tidying up her clothes, the staff just didn't give a toss.”
Last year, the Nurses and Midwives Association said nurses from Bupa Berry had come forward claiming there had been issues of ongoing bullying at the aged care home. The relative backed these claims, stating she had witnessed a staff member being bullied by her peers.
“They would stand there and say awful things about her,” she said.
“There was complete disdain for her and everyone knew about it.”
The spokesperson for Bupa said all allegations of bullying were taken very seriously.
“Bullying is not tolerated in our workplace and we take all bullying allegations seriously, with procedures in place to ensure our care home is a safe and supportive place to live and work,” they said.
Documents obtained by the South Coast Register last year revealed Bupa Berry has made several changes at the home to improve quality of life for residents following the audit. Extra shifts have been added and another staff member has been added to night shift. Fortnightly newsletters will also be distributed to relatives and families to improve communication.