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Byron Shire
July 13, 2024

Feros slaps ban on media visits

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Recalcitrant Feros resident, Kate Smorty. Photo Tree Faerie

On Saturday, on the way to visit Feros Byron Bay residents, The Echo was told via text and email from a Feros Care media spokesperson that, ‘Unfortunately we have a policy of no media on site. We are more than happy for you to meet the residents offsite but no media is allowed within the facility.’

Residents Kate Smorty and Jo Wooldridge braved a cold and rainy day to meet The Echo out the front.

They say that there was a recent visit from federal agency, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (ACQSC), which also prompted a ‘visit’ from the Feros CEO and some managers, who have not been on the premises for many weeks.

They said they brought with them the Feros chef, who has also been off-site for weeks, and they had a visit from a doctor the day before the monitors arrived – something that has also not happened for a while.

Welfare concerns

When asked about the resident’s claims, the Feros rep replied, ‘Because of our ongoing concern for the welfare of the remaining eight residents, who have refused to leave the facility, Feros Care reached out and engaged with Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission’.

‘Three senior Commission advisors inspected the village, and met with the remaining residents, Feros Care management and families onsite on September 14 and 15.

‘Following that inspection, Feros Care received assurance from the Commission that despite, “the complexity of the closure, no clinical risk was identified in the continuity of care to the residents. The clinical care provided is safe, best practice and supports consumer needs with no major clinical changes in consumers identified by the assessment team.”

‘Feros Care management are regularly at the facility.’

Meanwhile, one resident complained that the food is ‘atrocious’, and others say they have to rely on charity to get fresh food.

They have been eating commercial meals, prepared off the premises and fresh meals via the generosity of the Liberation Larder in Byron, the Mullum Neighbourhood Centre and GoFundMe.

Feros management replied, ‘Some remaining residents are at times making choices to eat food prepared by others, which in our view is very generous, though unnecessary’.

‘Every day, the Feros Village Byron Bay chef makes meals for the eight remaining residents at our kitchens in Bangalow. These meals are prepared by the same experienced, and long-standing chef… Residents are offered a choice of two meals at each serving, complemented by a daily selection of sandwiches, salads, cakes, and fresh fruit.’

Two of the children of residents say this is simply not true. Maree Eddings said there have been no salads of any description since August 6, as is the case with the ‘two options’.

‘My dad had to see a speech pathologist, as he was choking regularly and she noted that he was not given enough choice of food. She told Feros that. The second “choice” are pre-packaged sandwiches.’

Conflicting claims

Dianne Brien says her mum would love a salad.

‘My mum doesn’t get any options – it’s either what they offer or a sandwich.’

As far as the ban on media, solicitor Mark Swivel told The Echo that this is a clear breach of the resident agreements with Feros, and the Charter of Rights and Responsibilities under the Aged Care Act 1997, which protects all legal, civil and consumer rights for aged care residents.

‘Access to media is a basic legal and civil right, and in this context a consumer right,’ said Swivel. ‘Also, residents are able to invite anyone they wish to visit them at their home. Like any of us’.

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