Earle Haven Retirement village (aged care) at the Royal Commission – nobody wins

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Yesterday was a very sad day for retirement village and aged care operators, many staff and government bureaucrats.

To say everybody looked ‘bad’ is an understatement.

Recap

Earle Haven retirement village is a co-located campus with a big retirement village (close to 1,000 residents) and an aged care facility – both are called the Earle Haven Retirement Village’ and owned by Arthur Miller (pictured) since 2001 and 2003.

Mr Miller’s registered aged care provider is called People Care.

The aged care facility has a long history of critical reviews by the regulator, dating back to 2006.

In March 2018 People Care subcontracted out to a company called HelpStreet to actually operate the aged care facility. Little is known of HelpStreet’s track record in residential aged care operations; just four years old, it originally established podiatry services to aged care facilities, expanding within Australia, New Zealand and the UK. On the surface it is owned by Kristofer Bunker (pictured).

Resident family complaints and disputes led Mr Miller to give one month’s written notice to Kris Bunker that HelpStreet was to be ‘out’ of the business and the premises by 9 August.

At 1:33 PM on Thursday 11 July HelpStreet’s 28-year-old Clinical Care Manager, Telecia Tuccori, called 000 saying she had 68 residents that needed to be evacuated from the premises immediately for their safety.

News channels that afternoon then showed residents abandoned by staff and images of removalists taking mattresses and furniture out, plus images emerged of medical, food and other supplies ransacked from the offices.

Local, State and Federal politicians immediately appeared, calling for an inquiry, including the Royal Commission.

The Royal Commission yesterday

It was a big day at the Commission for two reasons.

  • First, the ‘real story’ behind the ‘story’ was revealed.
  • The second, the Royal Commission – while interested in the actual event – was far more interested in the failed performance of the Federal aged care regulators.

Our colleague Lauren Broomham, who attends every Royal Commission hearing and writes The Daily COMMISSION newsletter, gave a detailed report and you can read it HERE.

Story behind the story

The Earle Haven debacle is a dispute over money by two business operators that both have ‘history’.

We have been told that as a village operator he “arrives early in the morning and won’t speak to anyone” and “never responds to a letter”.

People Care is noted as having aged care compliance issues dating back to 2007.

The Commission produced a copy of People Care’s annual financial statement for the year ending 30 June 2017. It had incurred a loss of $869,566 on revenue of $6.9 million in 2016/17, which was a big increase on the previous financial year.

HelpStreet and Kristofer Bunker were identified as being inexperienced in residential aged care, in addition, Mr Bunker was identified by the Commission as not currently being able to be a public officer under the Corporations Act.

And his actions would appear to be of someone in need of funding, because on the morning of 11 July he told staff they could not be paid because HelpStreet was owed money by Arthur Miller’s People Care.

In the 000 call made by Telicia Tuccori, she stated she had been instructed to say that the aged care facility was ‘under administration’, and the staff were not being paid and were abandoning their roles.

The money

In yesterday’s testimony Mr Bunker revealed that on Wednesday 10 July his lawyers emailed People Care – the day before the closure – demanding Arthur Miller pay $2.7 million plus GST (discounted by 25%) to resolve their financial/contractual dispute – half by midday on 11 July 2019, the next day; another 25% by 30 July 2019; and the other 25% by 9 August 2019.

Without the payments Mr Bunker discussed with his staff the possibility they would go into administration..

(Mr Bunker yesterday acknowledged that HelpStreet has not gone into administration however).

The Commission then identified that Arthur Miller’s lawyers had written a letter saying they would pay HelpStreet up to June 30.

Arthur Miller, under evidence, stated: “they tried to bargain with us for cash”.

But the damning evidence to the credibility of Mr Bunker’s HelpStreet and his treatment of the residents goes to the fact that he ‘unusually’ attended the facility the day before, the 10th, and was involved in the removal of the computer serversfor upgrading”.

He discussed with some of his staff that they may close the next day, and the next morning removalists had arrived and were videoed at 12:15pm on the 11th July removing furniture, equipment and bedding belonging to HelpStreet.

This is at the time of the deadline for the first demanded payment and one hour before the phone call to 000.

Mr Bunker claimed in evidence that the decision had not been made to evacuate the facility before the midday deadline on the 11th.

The 68 residents were relocated to hospitals and other aged care facilities. The last relocation occurred at 2am Friday morning.

The HelpStreet staff have not been paid and Mr Bunker has returned to the UK where he lives.

What the Royal Commission wants to know is:-

  • How did the bureaucrats allow People Care, (the operator responsible for the bed licenses, residents and the money collected from the Government), outsource its responsibility to a company like HelpStreet?
  • How did it not receive the closest scrutiny?
  • How could staff on the day abandon the residents and allow the facility to be ransacked?

Also to be questioned: how could the staff on the day also abandon the residents and allow the facility to be ransacked?

(It should be noted that one staff member who had paper records in her possession, ready to hand over to the authorities, asked the police to protect here because other members of staff were threatening to “punch her head in”.

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