RECOMMENDATIONS made by the Victorian Ombudsman in the wake of the 2013 collapse of Mentone Gardens retirement home to prevent aged care residents losing bonds and deposits have been accepted by the Department of Health and Human Services.
Numerous regulatory failures by the DHHS prompted the state government to last year refund $4.33 million in aged care bonds and deposits lodged with retirement home Mentone Gardens to 34 former residents.
A scathing report by the Victorian Ombudsman noted the DHHS “failed in its regulatory role, missing opportunity after opportunity to identify the company’s precarious financial position” before the retirement home entered voluntary administration in September 2013 (‘Bonds lost as home goes bust’, The News 25/9/13).
A report by Ombudsman Deborah Glass following up recommendations was released last month and noted the state government department “is strengthening its oversight of Supported Residential Services in Victoria.
A compliance review will audit all SRS regarding management of residents’ money and trust accounts.
Elderly residents were left out of pocket, many losing their lives’ savings, when Mentone Gardens went into administration before the state government stepped in to authorise ex-gratia payments to cover the losses.
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, William and Gela Newitt.
Mr Newitt died in January 2014 and Mrs Newitt resigned her directorship in 2011 but the Ombudsman noted in a report released last year that “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 DHHS had received several complaints from residents in the months and years leading up to Mentone Gardens’ administration buy had failed to satisfactorily investigate the financial position of the retirement home’s owner.
Mentone resident Allan Lorraine, 92, received an Order of Australia medal this year for his work in bringing the aged care home’s residents’ concerns to the attention of the Ombudsman. Mr Lorraine and his wife had lost about $400,000.
An email from the daughter of a 102-year-old former resident of Mentone Gardens was included in the Ombudsman report released last month.
“It has been a long and tortuous journey but from all bad comes good. The work of your team will now ensure that the Victorian Health Department will provide a better service for future Victorians and particularly vulnerable Victorians,” the email stated.