AN executive manager involved in a confidential internal probe at a Baptist-run aged-care home in Queensland has described an allegedly deliberate campaign to cover up suspicious deaths, injuries, fabricated reports and grossly negligent care.
Darryl Turner, the current human resources head of Baptist Community Services, was contacted by an investigator from the federal Department of Social Services after Senator Mitch Fifield this week ordered an urgent investigation of the home in Bundaberg.
Mr Turner has provided the investigator with a detailed statement and photographs, including those of a resident at the aged-care home, now deceased, who was repeatedly bashed and left in his bed for about five days with three broken ribs sustained in a fall.
The former church minister, who reports to chief executive Jon Campbell, has told the department: “I was concerned that we were deliberately covering up suspected resident deaths and that, by default, I was now completely implicated in this deception.”
He said another Brisbane-based executive who visited the home in Bundaberg disclosed in December that “there were so many unsolicited people coming forward with horrendous stories that they simply had no idea of the extent of the problem, or how many people may have died at this facility due to systemic neglect”.
“Even though they were not conducting an investigation into residential abuse and neglect at Kepnock Grove, as they were on site dealing with a union matter, there was a constant stream of people coming forward with stories of systemic neglect, physical and verbal abuse which we believed had resulted in both serious resident injury and an unknown number of deaths,” Mr Turner told the department.
“Family members and staff were coming forward stating that their loved ones were being repeatedly bashed, left in bed with broken ribs, had care and medication withheld, had been malnourished, were transported to hospital covered in faeces or were not transferred to hospital when injured, suffered a head trauma, grabbed around the throat and been put back to bed and subsequently died.
“Staff, residents and family members were talking about their loved ones being sworn at and verbally abused, that residents had food and drink rationed and that residents had a significant proportion of bed sores.”
He said a night-duty staff member was “disappearing and leaving residents unattended while engaging in a ‘tryst’ with her boyfriend during the evening hours” and staff were sleeping on duty in locked rooms while residents wandered around the home.
“Staff were also indicating that they had falsified records to cover up resident neglect,’’ he said.
He told the department that staff indicated that for some time they did not say anything as they feared having their shifts reduced, while the families of residents were concerned that speaking out would lead to more mistreatment.
He said he and fellow managers knew about the mandatory reporting requirements to alert police, the department and the coroner, “and we discussed that we were clearly in breach of some if not all of these requirements, but believed that reporting would make this crisis implode”.
He said that in a meeting with other executives, two said the matters would not be reported as they were “damned if they did and damned if they didn’t”.
“Reporting these matters would lead to external involvement, which would be disastrous for the organisation,’’ he said.
“There were also serious concerns that a staff member or a family member would contact the department or the media, which would also be devastating for the reputation of Carinity, who had just been successful in winning a number of additional aged-care funding places.”
Mr Turner said the strategy adopted involved managers working to “fix up the paperwork and existing care issues, and marketing would be directed to prepare media responses to have on hand in case the issues were reported”.
He said after receiving legal advice on December 17 from a solicitor who urged an investigation, to be run by the legal firm, to identify the problems and meet reporting requirements, Mr Campbell decided against it as he believed “a bunch of lawyers in suits walking around the aged-care facility would (not) be good for anyone”.
Mr Campbell, who has previously described Mr Turner as being “passionate about Carinity’s vision to create communities where people are loved, accepted and supported to reach their full potential”, emphatically denies any attempted cover-up.
Mr Campbell, who last week instructed lawyers to try to restrain The Weekend Australian from reporting on the matters and to threaten fines of $1 million for disclosing confidential information, said: “We have complied with all of our requirements to report. There has certainly never been any intention to cover anything up. In no way have we been party to a cover-up, or any failure of our reporting responsibilities.”
He has said Carinity was “deeply sorry” for letting down residents whom he has acknowledged were poorly treated before December. On Monday after the claims of family members, and former and serving staff, were reported in The Australian, two former managers were referred to the Office of the Health Ombudsman by Carinit
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