Jane Rankin-Reid said her mother died before a clear outcome in the complaint process. (ABC News: Brian Tegg)
When Jane Rankin-Reid moved her mum Shirlee into an aged care home in Hobart, she hoped she would live out her twilight years in comfort and dignity.
But the elderly woman’s life at the Bupa aged care home in South Hobart soon became a nightmare.
“Her shoulder had been wrenched, she was in pain tremendous pain,” Mrs Rankin-Reid said.
“The second time I believe she had a graze on her leg.”
Shirlee complained to her family that she was frequently dropped and given the wrong medications.
She also claimed that she was being subjected to emotional abuse at the Bupa aged care home.
“In each instance this was an absolute unnecessary addition to her late-life discomfort, so she lost a lot of strength in each of those instances apart from anything,” Mrs Rankin-Reid said.
Last October, Mrs Rankin-Reid made a complaint to the federal watchdog — the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (ACQSC)— about her mother’s experience, but the 93-year-old died before it could be resolved.
“She was clearly in pain,” Mrs Rankin-Reid said.
“It’s horrifying. She told us she had been given the wrong medication and was roughly handled by a particular staff member.
“We raised these complaints first with Bupa South Hobart, and then to the commission when we felt we didn’t get adequate answers.
“It seemed like they weren’t taking it seriously.”
Complaints process ‘heart wrenching’
There have been “serious complaints” in relation to 23 people in Tasmanian aged care homes made to the ACQSC since 2017.
The complaints include physical abuse, the use of chemical restraints and wound mismanagement.
Jane Rankin-Reid made complaints about her mother’s aged care to Bupa and then to the aged care commission. (ABC News: Brian Tegg)
Mrs Rankin-Reid said the complaints process with the ACQSC was “fraught”, “frustrating” and “enormously heart wrenching.”
“It was becoming more and more heartbreaking because she continued to be in pain,” she said.
Shirlee died before there was a clear outcome.
“I have a very clear experience here in Tasmania of people being afraid to speak up,” Mrs Rankin-Reid said.
Shirlee Rankin-Reid told her daughter Jane she had been dropped while in care. (Supplied: Jane Rankin-Reid)
Suzanne Dvorak, Managing Director of Bupa Aged Care Australia, said the company had “worked hard” to address problems at its aged care home in South Hobart.
“The home is no longer under sanction and it has recently been re-accredited by the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission for a further year,” Mrs Dvorak said.
She said improvements included the appointment of external advisors and administrators.
“We take the care needs of our residents very seriously, and are confident that the improvements we have embedded are sustainable and we will continue to work to regain the trust of the South Hobart community,” she said.
Bupa did not address questions from the ABC about whether there were further complaints about its Tasmanian facility.
Faeces left splattered on curtains for 11 weeks, worker alleges
Sue Leitch, CEO of Tasmania’s Council on the Ageing, said the complaints revealed human rights abuses.
“We are looking at basic human rights here, we should be free from physical abuse, the use of chemical restraints has been shown to be excessive and not appropriate in a lot of cases, it is concerning to hear there is this level of complaints,” she said.
The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety begins hearings in Hobart from November 11 to 15, with a focus on the operations of selected aged care providers running residential facilities.
Mrs Leitch said she was concerned some matters in regional Tasmania could be missed with the royal commission only visiting Hobart.
“There is ongoing dialogue about this … but if you are in your 80s or 90s and in an aged care home in the north-west, for example, it raises the question of how those voices can be heard.”
Some of the complaints before the ACQSC related to hygiene.
Photos provided to the ABC by someone who works in aged care appear to show human faeces splattered on shower curtains at one aged care centre in Hobart.
An aged care worker says human faeces was not cleaned off a shower curtain in an aged care home for eight weeks. (Supplied)
The worker claimed that the faeces went uncleaned for more than 11 weeks because the operator did not hire cleaners after an outbreak of gastroenteritis, leaving a small number of staff to clean the entire facility.
The centre is not Bupa’s South Hobart facility.
The ABC understands the issue has since been resolved.
Submissions to the aged care royal commission will be accepted during September, with an interim report due in October.
The ABC understands more than 130 Tasmanian-based submissions have been made to the commission.
Mrs Rankin-Reid urged other Tasmanians to share their stories of elder abuse.
“This is an abuse of elderly, vulnerable Australians and in a small community like Tasmania, we must find the courage to stand up for our elders,” Mrs Rankin-Reid said.