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Byron Shire
April 23, 2021

Are residents at risk at Feros nursing home in Bangalow?

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Paul Bibby

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.’


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8 COMMENTS

  1. We are living in an age of “just deny it happens”.
    The staff makes an allegation, and management just insists that everything is fine, nothing to see here folks. We run a great facility with no problems. Meanwhile, the staff, who have no reason to lie, get ignored.

  2. Privatisation of nursing homes for profit is the big problem. Feros Care in Byron Bay should be looked at for serious understaffing. Feros care is a for-profit company, and thus will minimise staff numbers. It has nothing to do with the wonderful George Feros, they bought and kept the name for its good reputation. My mother was there for 2 months respite. She had mild dementia, just short term memory loss and some confusion, and was otherwise fit and well for a 94 year old, mobile, independent in personal care, and on NO drugs whatsoever.
    Feros top management were unapproachable and evasive when we tried to contact them about some issues. They wanted her on drugs, any drugs, because then they got a bigger subsidy from the government, some manager from the Gold Coast admitted this to us. My mother would be left in her room when activities were on, because they’d just forget, or she’d forget and no-one would come to get her. There is no overnight RN, just 2 staff, who run around trying to do everyone, but that was the time mum needed some reassurance, and nobody had the time. They’d turn off the lights early, by 7or 8, and mum would not know where she was, looking for someone to reassure her. I visited her every afternoon [some respite for me!] till bed time,and sleep, but she had become frightened at night.
    Her condition got much worse in the time she was there. (She improved markedly when she went home!) The carers were good, mostly, but too overworked to give that bit of check-in reassurance when needed. She did everything else herself. Showered, dressed,toileted. etc.
    Until aged care workers, mostly women of course, are respected, paid, and trained properly, and aged care companies stop working for the shareholders’ and CEO’s profits, the physical and emotional neglect of our elders will continue. [And the LNP have cut funding by $4 billion since 2013 of course]

    • Hey Jak
      The write down you’re giving about Feros Care at Byron Bay is unfair and inaccurate. I worked there as a volunteer bus driver for almost 2 years . In that time I was amazed at how well the Residents were treated. It was like one big happy family. I don’t know where you get your info from but the organisation is a NOT-for-profit. Also the village at Byron is a low care centre whereas the one in Bangalow is for high care Residents. I feel for your mother but maybe she was in the wrong centre to be cared for. I’m sorry if you feel that your mother was neglected there but I suggest that you may be biased. And to take a shot at the LNP whilst you’re at it is just plain cheap.

      • Not a cheap shot but a well-directed one at the bastardy of your precious LNP.
        We are not America. Health care is a government responsibility, not something to be privatised for profit where quality care is available only for the rich. Yes funding cuts are linked to poor standards of care, how can you not see that?

  3. The obvious answer is for elderly people to be looked after at home by caring relatives just as my mother did for my elderly grandmother till she passed.

  4. I worked at both Byron and Bangalow for 4-5 years,most carers I know were run off their feet, underpaid and not treated very well. I left after getting tired of management not doing anything.About 4 yrs ago things changed dramatically in Feros,a lot of good management & staff left one after the other as it was getting worse and worse and no one confronted the real issues even though most people complained to management over and over. I know I did several times.
    Things were hammed up constantly to make it look great from the outside and that’s a fact. A lot of people do get treated well at both places but its not consistent at all so sometimes they aren’t treated the best they could be purely due to time. But there are many wonderful carers at both with huge hearts but they are only human!
    I visited a much loved resident one day and no one could take her to the toilet for half hour to 45 mins as they were on breaks,short staffed as it was a Sunday.They also told me she’d already gone! I mean I think at 70 you know if you need the bloody toilet.She also had problems due to cancer so had lost control. I couldn’t myself as she wouldn’t let me,she was embarrassed. I tried several times to ask but to no avail,she ended up pooping her pants and was so embarrassed she asked me to leave. I was very upset and didn’t want to leave her like that. She ended up passing away the next week and all I could think about was that memory as my last. The dignity she was not given was shameful.
    The cuts have been constant in that place and are always happening as I still talk to several of the staff regularly, even as of last week!
    When I was there I did paperwork in my breaks and worked half hour to 45 mins overtime every day to get my job done and I’m a very fast worker.
    And Mike having ago at someone else’s opinion is not fair considering you are a volunteer who is out driving as you would not see all the ins and outs of everyday running. Their opinion like mine is relevant and so was her experience.
    The Feros Care I started to work with years ago is definitely half the place it is today. It used to be a cut above but those days are gone! That’s why I left,it broke my heart to watch!
    So my final opinion would be” Yes they are at risk!”

  5. Now that Echo knows that Feros is one of the biggest charities in Byron how about donating some of your profits to be a really concerned local organisation.

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