Aged care nightmare: man's scrotum 'left bleeding'
"I'LL never forget that day...and I will never forgive."
On May 6, 2015, Heather Brown received a call from her husband's aged care facility, asking her to travel from her home in Woodgate to Bundaberg to help clean him.
"He was left on the veranda covered in his own faeces, for residents and visitors to see."
Ms Brown's husband Bill, 77, has dementia and lives in the high needs unit at TriCare in Bundaberg.
The facility says client care is foremost in its goals but says it can't talk about individual incidents.
That day in 2015 Mrs Brown was called in to help due to a lack of staff.
She said the problem has not gone away and is lobbying for change.
Last month she arrived at the home and a nurse reported Mr Brown's scrotum had been bleeding.
He had been wearing a urine-soaked pad for 12 hours which had caused the skin on his scrotum to tear.
In another incident, she discovered her husband had fallen and appeared to be having a mini stroke, but no staff came immediately to her aid, as "one was busy feeding another resident".
Mrs Brown stressed that the staff were doing their best - but there were simply not enough of them.
"It is a staffing issue," Mrs Brown said.
"The staff there are wonderful and they work very hard - but they are overstretched."
The NewsMail has also seen a statement from the daughter of another resident at TriCare Bundaberg echoing this sentiment.
"To date there seems to (be) very little staff, and the staff that are there are very caring and trying to do their best," the woman wrote in July 2016.
"I find that the care of the residents in this unit is not being met as it should and that something needs to be done."
Mrs Brown filed a complaint to the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner on January 19.
The Commissioner's office would not confirm if they were investigating any of her complaints, but in a letter to Mrs Brown seen by the NewsMail a complaints officer acknowledged receiving information on the treatment of Mr Brown and said, "We will work with you to address the issues and will stay in touch with you throughout the process".
After attending a meeting with two department representatives and management staff at TriCare on Tuesday, Mrs Brown said she was not convinced the situation would improve for all residents until more staff could be employed there.
"There is no legislation demanding a minimum staff to resident ratio," she said.
"They're exploiting that...and putting profit ahead of residents.
"It is distressing for everyone living there, and for the staff.
"It's not fair to be treated like this at this stage of life.
"They deserve better."
Meanwhile, she observed, "they're putting in new gardens out the front - they care about appearances".
The NewsMail sought comment on the issues from TriCare but director Michael O'Connor said it "wouldn't be appropriate for us to comment about specific resident matters".
"TriCare does not work off staff to resident ratios as such, but rather we determine staffing based on assessed resident care needs," Mr O'Connor said.
"Maintaining high standards of care is very important to us and we ensure this via a number of internal mechanisms. In addition we are monitored and are accredited with the Aged Care Quality Agency.
"There are both internal and external mechanisms for complaints and we encourage all residents and there representatives to use these avenues to ensure issues are dealt with and resolved appropriately."
A spokesman for the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner said when dealing with complaints it looked at the capacity to provide services rather than the staff-resident ratio.
"The majority of concerns relating to residential care in 2016 were about the appropriate identification, handling, timing and management of medication, and the lack of consultation and communication to families and residents," the spokesman said.
If you have a concern about an aged care facility, you can file a complaint at agedcarecomplaints.gov.au.
Heather Brown wants to hear from others with similar experiences.
To get in touch with her or to share your story with the NewsMail, email firstname.lastname@example.org.