Understaffing at the Feros Care nursing home in Bangalow has become so bad that the care and safety of residents is regularly being neglected, according to staff and people who have had loved ones living in the home.
But the home’s management remains adamant that there are no understaffing issues and that care is of a ‘high standard’ at Bangalow Village.
The Echo has been told that the home is so understaffed that, at times, residents are not getting sufficient assistance to go to the toilet, not having their teeth or dentures cleaned, and not being regularly turned in bed to prevent bed sores.
Staff also say that understaffing has contributed to a significant increase in falls at the home, and that overall the situation was considerably worse than at other centres where they had worked.
And staff say their repeated complaints have effectively fallen on deaf ears, with Feros Care management so far refusing to increase the number of people on each shift.
All of this was denied by Feros Care CEO Jennene Buckley.
Buckley: saddened by claims
‘I am saddened by these claims because all the facts point to our care being of high standard,’ Ms Buckley said.
‘We take any claims regarding our duty of care seriously and are examining all our practices at Bangalow to ensure we meet the high standards expected by our residents and their families.’
But former employee Jessica Riddell said understaffing had regularly left her and other staff in tears.
‘You’d turn up to work, and when you work out how many staff you’ve got, you don’t know how you’re going to do it,’ Ms Riddell said.
‘You can’t plan anything, you just respond. You just run to where the call bells are going off. You’re leaving them [residents] in wet beds, you don’t have time to feed them properly, there’s increased pressure areas (bed sores), falls…’
Ms Riddell’s claims have been corroborated by three other current and former staff interviewed by The Echo.
‘If someone called in sick and they couldn’t cover the shift we were f****d,’ said another former staff member, who asked to remain anonymous.
You’d have RNs [registered nurses] run off their feet doing meds, helping with feeds, and toileting
‘You’d have RNs [registered nurses] run off their feet doing meds, helping with feeds, and toileting.
‘You’d have afternoon shifts with four or five people. Each resident would get eight mins [of care] in an eight-hour shift.’
‘One of my colleagues used to call it an express [incontinence] pad change shift. No love, no talking. Get into bed – slap, bang, done.’
‘It got to the point where Care Staff [casual agency staff] wouldn’t come and work for us.’
Buckley rejected all claims
But Ms Buckley rejected all of the claims. She said that the company’s Village Care manager had not received any complaints about continence or dental care, but that management would follow up with families and staff to confirm this.
She said that the average response time for residents wanting to go to the toilet was three minutes, and there were specific plans in place for residents who were incontinent.
She also said that staff at Feros constantly monitored and treated bed sores.
Ms Buckley said falls were a regular occurrence in aged care facilities across the country due to the frailty of residents.
Feros regularly monitored its residents, she said, but ‘we do not physically restrain them, giving them the dignity to continue to walk for the rest of their lives if they choose’.
However, staff members said understaffing had contributed to three significant fall incidents in the past two weeks. This included a female resident falling and breaking her leg – an injury which preceded her death in hospital soon after – a female resident escaping from the centre and suffering a head wound in the carpark, and a female resident falling from her toilet chair and breaking her arm.
‘It’s basically about having enough eyes,’ said a current employee who asked to remain anonymous.
In all of the time I‘ve been at Feros, they’ve asked us to do more [work] with nowhere near enough staff to do it. When that happens, things get missed
‘In all of the time I‘ve been at Feros, they’ve asked us to do more [work] with nowhere near enough staff to do it. When that happens, things get missed. If someone’s going to be resistive then we don’t have time to try. We have to give up and move on to the next person who we can do something for.’
In relation to the three falls, Ms Buckley said that staff had responded within one minute and 46 seconds to the woman who broke her leg, and then did everything possible to help before she was taken to hospital.
The woman who fell in the carpark had been let out by a member of the public, and the third woman had not fallen from the toilet but fell in her bedroom and later said she had been reaching for something.
However, staff reportedly wrote a letter to management earlier this year informing them that residents at the Bangalow home received an average of just 1.7 hours of direct care per day.
That’s well below the national average of 2.6 hours and less than half of the 4.6 hours per day that the Royal Commission into Aged Care has recommended.
This was apparently not the first time such a complaint was made to management.
But Ms Buckley said this was incorrect. ‘The NSW industry benchmark is 2.3 direct hours of care per resident per day and Feros Care has a higher rate of care at 2.4 hours,’ she said.
Rostering policy requires for all shifts to be filled at all times
‘The staff rostering policy requires for all shifts to be filled at all times, and the duty registered nurse calls in support staff to fill in gaps when they arise. Should a staff member be ill or cannot come in for whatever reason, Feros Village engages Care Agency staff to supplement the team.’
But Sue Craig, whose mother Ronnie lived at the home until two-and-half years ago said she too had written to Feros Care management about the understaffing issues she had observed.
‘They said thank you for your letter, and that was the beginning and the end of it,’ Ms Craig said.
‘Every day I went, mum would say “they’re so short staffed”.
‘The staff are wonderful, with no exceptions. They’re dedicated, good people, but their hands were tied.’
‘They work so hard for so little money, but the management doesn’t seem to take notice of what the problems are.’