Ombudsman finds a ‘litany of failings’ in oversight of aged care home

Date posted:

Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass has today tabled a report in Parliament highly critical of government oversight of an aged care facility home to 39 elderly residents, many over 90 years old.

In September 2013, the Mentone Gardens facility in south eastern Melbourne went into liquidation, with the loss of over $4.5m in bonds and deposits, which had been paid by residents to secure their accommodation and care.

"I am pleased that the Department of Health and Human Services has agreed in principle to my recommendations – that the government makes an ex gratia payment to those affected, and that it has recognised the need for stronger regulation of these facilities," Ms Glass said.

Mentone Gardens was a Supported Residential Service (SRS) which operated from 1991 until 2013. It was privately owned and operated, but registered with, and therefore regulated by, the then Department of Health.

"Enquiries made following a complaint from a former resident of Mentone Gardens led me to launch this investigation in September 2014, and I then heard from a further 17 former residents and family members with similar concerns," Ms Glass said.

"Families had been reassured that the facility was registered with a government department, but when they complained to the department after Mentone Gardens went into liquidation, the department denied any responsibility," she said.

"My investigation has uncovered a different story.

"My investigation uncovered a litany of failings by the department over an extended period of time.

"Despite showing no proper financial records over its entire 25 year history of operation, numerous complaints about both the care of residents and financial management, and two prosecutions by the department, Mentone Gardens had its registration renewed eleven times.

"Many of the residents had sold their homes to pay for their care, but the impact of their loss was more than monetary.

"Many of them, already frail, lost their dignity, their independence and their peace of mind.

"For their families, the loss was exacerbated by the bureaucratic stonewalling of departmental representatives.

"More recently, there have been some positive developments. The law now requires SRS proprietors to hold bond money in trust, and the department has assured me that all currently registered SRSs are subject to inspection. But more needs to be done.

"Regulations should be tightened to ensure financial viability is as important as quality of care. Procedures need to be finalised and implemented.

"The elderly and their families – potentially, every Victorian – deserve no less."

Report: Investigation into Department of Health oversight of Mentone Gardens, a Supported Residential Service

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Notes to editors

  • Mentone Gardens first registered to operate as an SRS by Parklane in 1991. Registration renewed 11 times until Parklane went into liquidation in 2013.
  • Two prosecutions:
    • 1995 – for breaches of care to a resident. Pleaded guilty and fined.
    • 2000 – for care plan and accident record breaches. Magistrate describes the proprietor’s conduct as ‘appalling’. Parklane pleaded guilty and fined.
  • Departmental officers receive further complaints or identify failures to comply with standards, procedures and compliance notices at least 25 times.