Royal Freemasons Sale aged care home calls for help from Defense Force staff after failed audit

An aged care facility in eastern Victoria is seeking Defense Force support to tackle staff shortages and improve conditions after failing a government audit.

Auditors found that Royal Freemasons Sale did not meet the government’s minimum quality standards for aged care.

In February, the federal government announced that up to 1,700 defense personnel would be sent to help older workers suffering from severe personnel shortages.

The aged care facility has also been sanctioned, meaning it cannot take in new residents until July, so it will miss subsequent government payments.

Royal Freemason chief executive Kerri Rivett said it would be a “significant financial blow” and the main problem for the organization is finding enough qualified staff at the Gippsland nursing home.

The establishment will also be forced to appoint an “eligible adviser” to assist the organization for six months as part of the sanctions.

Ms Rivett said they were allocating additional resources and specialist staff to help meet the requirements.

“There is a nurse advisor on site, there are other clinicians on site, there is a nurse educator on site. We are assisting staff and working on the non-compliance that has been identified,” Ms Rivett said. .

The Royal Freemasons Sale aged care facility has 97 residents.(ABC Gippsland: Bec Symons)

She blamed the COVID-19 pandemic for staff shortages and turnover.

“We have not been able to achieve the required staffing levels at this site and have been trying to recruit from this site for some time,” Ms. Rivett said.

This audit finding comes after the facility failed to meet almost half of its 42 requirements in last year’s audit.

Residents run out of showers amid shortages

Jenny, the wife of Greg Short, is a resident of Royal Freemasons Sale and welcomed the Defense appeal.

He said he had lobbied the Freemasons for better management during the four years his wife Jenny had lived there.

He said that due to the recent staff shortage, she had not showered or been able to leave her room for five days.

“The staff can’t get her out of bed and put her in the [mobility chair]. This cannot be done with just one staff member. It happened last Friday and this Monday,” he said.

“A member of staff runs the dementia ward, so at lunchtime they serve food to those at the table, but then she has four other people in bed [residents] that she has to feed herself.”

He believed that nothing had changed since the imposition of the sanctions on April 14 and that the teams were still understaffed.

He said that although the personal care attendants who were there did their best, they were constantly understaffed and burned out.

“They lost some good workers, and those who put up with it are pretty damn good.”

An elderly man and woman, the woman lying in bed.
Greg Short, with his wife Jenny, says she hasn’t showered in five days due to understaffing.(Provided: Greg Short)

On a good week, Ms Short’s caregivers shower, dress and comb their hair on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Mr Short typically uses this as a measure of staffing levels and said on Wednesday that Ms Short had not received staff care since Friday.

Mr Short insisted he was not just standing up for his wife, he was also trying to stand up for other residents and staff.

“I’m complaining for everyone,” Mr Short said.

“There are no activities because there are not enough staff.

Not enough staff to care for residents

Staff at Royal Freemason’s Sale told the ABC they had been accused of failing the audit by the organisation’s management.

But Ms Rivett denied this.

“The staff have done an absolutely fantastic job on site,” she said.

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