FORMER residents of Mentone Gardens will receive compensation after the Victorian Ombudsman released a scathing report slamming the Department of Health for failing to adequately monitor the Mentone aged care home.
Mentone Gardens went into voluntary administration two years ago with more than $4 million in bonds and deposits unaccounted for (‘Bonds lost as home goes bust’, The News 25/9/13).
The department has agreed to make ex-gratia payments to former Mentone Gardens residents at taxpayers’ expense after an Ombudsman investigation finalised last month uncovered “a litany of failings by the department over an extended period of time”.
Ombudsman Deborah Glass heard from 18 former residents and families during the course of the investigation.
“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.”
The aged care home was found to have breached care plans on several occasions amid poor hygiene standards.
When the aged care home went into administration there were 39 elderly residents who had paid large sums of money for care and accommodation.
The liquidator advised the money had “disappeared” due to “misappropriation of funds”.
The Ombudsman report noted Mentone Gardens was operated by Parklane Assets Pty Ltd and “for much of its 25-year history” Parklane’s directors were a husband and wife.
Those directors were William and Gela Newitt.
Mr Newitt died in January 2014 and Mrs Newitt resigned her directorship in 2011 but the Ombudsman noted “she appears to have had effective control of the day-to-day management of the facility, particularly once the proprietor was admitted to a nursing home”.
Parklane Assets had been trading while insolvent for three years before going into administration and the Ombudsman found some of bonds and deposits monies that should have been held in trust accounts were transferred “to a related entity of Parklane”.
“The consequences for residents were not limited to financial loss,” Ms Glass said.
“Residents and their families told my office of the hardship involved in having to relocate to new accommodation, accepting lesser facilities and the general distress associated with the loss of savings accumulated over a lifetime of hard work and frugal living.
“For their families, the loss was exacerbated by the bureaucratic stonewalling of departmental representatives as they tried to find answers. They told me they felt betrayed, hurt and let down by the system.”
Registered Supported Residential Service providers, such as Mentone Gardens before its liquidation, must now hold bond money in trust.
“The department has assured me that all currently registered SRSs are subject to inspection,” Ms Glass said.