$3m reason behind nursing home mass eviction

A SHOWDOWN over a $3 million bill alleged to be owed to the company managing Gold Coast's Earle Haven Retirement Village was behind a mass evacuation last month that left nearly 70 elderly people being carried away in a fleet of ambulances.

The Royal Commission Into Aged Care Quality and Safety was told yesterday the $3 million was allegedly owed by Earle Haven's owner Arthur Miller to Kristopher Bunker, the UK-based CEO of HelpStreet which was managing the centre, employing the staff and providing care.

The inquiry, taking evidence in Brisbane this week, was told that on the eve of the July 11 mass evacuation Mr Bunker demanded Mr Miller pay the $3 million for breach of contract, with half the money to be paid by midday the following day and the rest by early August.

"Did you have a reasonable expectation he would pay damages in that amount?" asked counsel assisting Paul Bolster.

"No, I believed he (Mr Miller) would open up negotiations," replied Mr Bunker, who was giving evidence from London.

"Is it fair to say it was an ambit claim?" Mr Bolster asked.

"No, but he was prepared to negotiate down," Mr Bunker replied.

The matter was not resolved and Earle Haven was unable to care for residents.

The following afternoon nearly 70 elderly residents, some in a highly emotional state, were taken to hospitals and other facilities by ambulance after a staff member called triple-0.

Karen Heard, who worked as an external consultant to People Care Pty Ltd, which owned the facility, said when she got to the centre that afternoon the scene was chaotic.

"There were eight to 10 ambulances there and quite a lot of people outside … it was very disorganised," she said.

 

People Care owner Arthur Miller leaves the Royal Commission Into Aged Care Quality and Safety in Brisbane yesterday. Picture: Darren England/AAP
People Care owner Arthur Miller leaves the Royal Commission Into Aged Care Quality and Safety in Brisbane yesterday. Picture: Darren England/AAP

 

Cary Strong from the Queensland Ambulance Service, who attended the scene, said one elderly lady was extremely distressed and crying, while the lady's daughter who was present was also in tears.

"She (the elderly lady) kept crying and screaming; she kept referring to her daughter as her mother, and she kept asking her … to 'stop this'."

Mr Strong said he asked a young woman at the retirement village to provide some files related to residents' care but she refused.

The woman told him other people wanted the files and those same people also wanted "to punch her head in".

Mr Strong said he believed the files were eventually handed to a police officer and then handed over to Queensland Health officials.

Senior counsel assisting Peter Gray, QC, said HelpStreet had been running the facility since around March 2018, under an arrangement with owner People Care.

"The cessation of services on July 11 appears to have been the result of a dispute between People Care and HelpStreet," Mr Gray said.

Mr Gray said, from its approval in 2006 as a provider of residential care, People Care appeared to have had a poor compliance record, with potential red flags about governance and management capacity dating back to 2007.

Tracey Rees, a regional director with the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, told the inquiry it was not unusual for aged care homes to broker out their services to another entity. The hearing resumes this morning.