“Infestations & overdoses”: Newmarch House horrors return
Dirty floors, ant-infested bedding, residents left sitting in soiled incontinence pads for hours, horrendous food and “virtual” wound inspections. It’s one year since the end of the Newmarch House Covid-19 outbreak. The media circus and regulators have moved on…And things are even worse than before. Anthony Klan reports.
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She was one of the 37 residents of Sydney’s now notorious Newmarch House who contracted Covid-19 in one of Australia’s deadliest outbreaks a year ago.
Within weeks, 19 of her fellow residents were dead.
Newmarch and its operator Anglicare – owned by the Anglican Church – were in the spotlight.
Survivor: Patricia Shea Source: Supplied
Systemic problems were exposed, new managers were temporarily installed, there were government inspectors, and stern words from the NSW Premier.
An independent inquiry was held. Promises were made.
There were “lessons from Newmarch” in “many different areas”, Prime Minister Scott Morrison declared.
Tuesday next week, June 15, marks one year since Newmarch Covid-19 outbreak was declared officially over.
Shea could be forgiven for thinking the worst was behind her.
Yet now – after the media scrums have dispersed, the politicians and regulators moved on, and inquiries completed – things are worse than ever.
Shea broke her arm about eight weeks ago, her son Anthony Bowe tells The Klaxon.
“In three days out of ten she was left wet in bed until 10pm at night until they washed her,” he says.
“This week her bed was full of ants.
“I asked her if it was just a few and she said, ‘no about 20 or 30’.”
“After Aged Care Quality went away they started making cuts to catering, to nurses, everything” — Anthony Bowe
At 77, Shea is one of Newmarch House’s younger residents.
Normally she is largely self-sufficient and in need of little “nursing”.
But her recent injury has provided a harrowing glimpse of the future.
“Now she’s bedridden she’s reliant on people to care for her with everything,” Bowe says.
“She’s got a dose of what her next 20 years could be like.
“At 77, she could be reliant on help for another 20 years,” he says.
Anthony Bowe, second from right, fronts the media. Source: Supplied
Bowe formed something of a lightning-rod after Covid-19 stormed through Newmarch House from April 11 last year.
He gave scores of media interviews and represented residents and their distraught families in their battle for answers.
Now he’s blowing the whistle all over again.
And what he has to share is almost unbelievable.
Despite the inquiries, the inspections, the intense public spotlight – and tens of millions of dollars of extra taxpayer funds – things at Newmarch are actually worse than they were before the outbreak.
Clockwise from top left: Patricia Shea, Anthony Bowe, signage at Newmarch House, Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck. Source: ABC, The Klaxon, supplied
Covid-19 thrust Anglicare’s systemic failures into the national spotlight.
Almost immediately, the NSW Government took charge and temporarily installed its own workers and management.
That was solely due to “the failure of Anglicare executive to ensure adequate general practitioners and adequate registered nurses and care staff”, NSW Health says.
In May the Federal Government’s Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission put Newmarch House “on-notice” for three months.
The place was clean, nurses available.
A cook was hired and food began being prepared by a cook on-site, rather than being carted in and re-heated.
It was short-lived.
“Once the three months was up the regulators just ticked the box and left,” Bowe says.
“After Aged Care Quality went away they started making cuts to catering, to nurses, everything.
“They’ve cut back on cleaners, they’re not vacuuming floors every day and not washing the bathrooms every day,” he says.
The on-site cook’s contract wasn’t renewed – it expired around Christmas – and residents have gone back to eating pre-prepared meals.
There were two full-time cleaners for the entire facility.
How The Klaxon broke the story last week. Source: The Klaxon
Bowe is speaking to us after The Klaxon last week revealed that Anglicare’s “restructuring” involves slashing staff costs by $7m-$7.5m annually across its 23 facilities.
That’s the equivalent of at least 125 full-time aged care jobs.
“You’re (The Klaxon) 100% spot on. This is exactly what’s going on,” Bowe tells us.
“Cleaning’s not being done, it’s hit and miss, and the quality of the food is terrible again.
Anglicare Sydney, its CEO Grant Millard, its chairman Greg Hammond and its entire board have consistently refused to comment, despite being repeatedly contacted by The Klaxon over the past 10 months.
Its CEO Millard, a corporate lawyer and former international tax haven accountant, in late March confirmed that cuts were being made, but did not provide further details.
Under questioning before a NSW parliamentary inquiry, Millard said he inquiry Anglicare’s business was “unsustainable” in its current form.
He was not “comfortable” with laying off workers but the situation was “dire” and it was “an issue of financial sustainability and viability”.
“That is not the way we want to go, but if we want to stay viable – able to operate – there is very little else,” Millard said.
But last week The Klaxon revealed that despite it crying poor to government and the public, Anglicare Sydney is actually awash with cash and one of the richest companies in the nation.
Anglicare Sydney’s total assets have exploded in recent years on the back of huge taxpayer subsidies. Source: Anglicare Sydney. Graphic: The Klaxon
It delivered a record $46m earnings last financial year and has well over $2 billion in assets.
And taxpayer funding is booming.
In the year to June 30 2020, Anglicare received a record $241.3m from taxpayers, up from $233.6m the year before.
Recent cuts by the local hospital had compounded the problem.
The nearby Nepean Hospital had previously sent out wounds specialists to check on residents.
“About two or three months ago they they notified us saying there is no longer a wounds specialist,” Bowe says.
“That duty has been added to the registered nurses.”
Already stretched Newmarch House nurses were now required to either send patients to hospital – requiring yet more staff time – or to take photographs of wounds on iPads and send the images to the hospital as part of a weekly “conference”.
“If it’s a post operation infection, or gangrene, or any other major infection, then the buck stops with the nurses,” Bowe says.
“What all the cuts are doing is funnelling everything toward a wrongful death.
“What happens when you put on all this pressure, staff have to prioritise things and things get missed,” he says.
Anglicare CEO Grant Millard leaves NSW parliamentary hearing on May 29. Source: 7 News
Aged care is a federal responsibility.
Despite this, Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck has been widely criticised as missing in action.
Colbeck has repeatedly refused to comment when contacted by The Klaxon.
What’s happening at Newmarch House is the exact opposite of what was called for by the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, and it comes despite the independent inquiry specifically into Newmarch House delivering damning findings last August.
At the time the NSW Government said that to ensure the lessons of the inquiry were are acted on, “it will be critically important that the accountabilities and responsibilities of aged care providers and Commonwealth agencies continue to be reinforced and enacted accordingly”.
“Critically important” that accountability be actually enforced re Newmarch outbreak. Source: NSW Health.
The way Bowe sees it, greed lies at the heart of the sector’s problems.
“This industry is so full of vultures because there is so much weakness,” he says.
“When you present weakness you attract vultures.”
Claims of cash shortages are being made across the industry – but it’s always the same story.
“(Mum) has been there for four years and the narrative through the whole industry has always been ‘oh, we are poor, we’re short of money’,” Bowe says.
Yet the overall cash flows to the sector are enormous.
“I have a friend whose Mum is in there and she pays $2,000 a month…but I wouldn’t feed this food to my dog,” Bowe says.
“Where’s the money going?”
More to come.
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