Retired pollie to lead nursing home probe

A FORMER chief minister of the ACT will head a Federal Government inquiry in to the beseiged Earle Haven nursing home on the Gold Coast.

Brisbane-born Kate Carnell, who served as the ACT's chief minister for five years until 2000, will preside over the inquiry, Federal Aged Care and Senior Australians Minister Richard Colbeck announced today.

The Order of Australia recipient has served at a number of different organisations since retiring from politics, including stints as CEO of meantal health charity Beyond Blue and as the inaugural Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman.

Richard Colbeck.
Richard Colbeck.

Mr Colbeck said he was angered and appalled by the terrible and unprecedented events that occurred at the retirement village.

"Residents should not have been put in a situation where they were forced to be relocated because they were left without the care they so rightfully deserved," Minister Colbeck said.

"I recognise the good work by the staff from Queensland Health and the Commonwealth Department of Health. Both responded urgently to the situation and worked through the night to safely relocate residents. I want to thank those who recognised the urgency of this situation and escalated it to emergency services."

"To get to the bottom of what has occurred, I have commissioned a full inquiry into the circumstances leading up to the collapse in provision of aged care services at the facility.

"The inquiry will examine the impact and consequences of the events on the safety and wellbeing of the affected residents."

It comes as Queensland Police ruled out laying any criminal charges over the events at the nursing home.

More than 70 elderly citizens were relocated from the nursing home last week, followed by days of finger-pointing and allegations of exactly who was responsible for the mess.

Police were called in to investigate the case, but in a statement today, a Queensland Police Service spokesperson said "a thorough investigation" had "determined there was no evidence of any criminal offences being committed and there are no charges to be preferred against any person or organisation," the statement said.

"No further action will be undertaken by police unless additional information is received."

The under-fire Earle Haven nursing home in Nerang. Picture: Adam Heade
The under-fire Earle Haven nursing home in Nerang. Picture: Adam Heade

Residents still still have no idea when they will be able to return to familiar surroundings.

That has left relatives and friends furious, saying many are dementia patients who are struggling after they were moved to temporary beds in other aged care homes.

Barbara Healey is a former director of a nursing home and her sister-in-law lived at Earle Haven until the shutdown.

She says Queensland Health should never have decided to move the residents, and instead should have sent in staff to limit stress for residents.

"They are useless, absolutely and totally useless," she told reporters.

"This was the worst thing that could happen to a person with dementia and most of those people had dementia.

"It's been terrible, absolutely dreadful. She doesn't know where she is or what she's doing ... she is distressed, they all are."

Federal government MP Angie Bell, whose electorate takes in the facility, said federal government investigators were already looking at what happened.

She said she had no doubt the aged care royal commission would examine the shutdown in detail.

"It is appalling that this has happened," she told reporters. "It must never happen again."

Last Thursday's shutdown was sparked by a financial dispute between the facility's owner, and a sub-contractor trusted to operate the high-care wing.

Ms Bell could not say when residents might get to go home.

"The facility is not ready to take residents back," she said.

"If the facility is not able to take them back then it is more dangerous for them to come back than to stay where they are."

Kate Carnell
Kate Carnell

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