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Sanctions overturned in unprecedented decision


In a first-of-its-kind outcome, a Queensland aged care provider has succeeded in having the Department of Social Services’ decision to impose sanctions at one of its facilities overturned and expunged from the public record.

CEO Jon Campbell said the decision supported the organisation’s view that the facts did not support the sanction for alleged serious risk.

Carinity’s Karinya Aged Care facility in Laidley, Queensland was sanctioned on 28 February following weeks of concurrent audits by the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency at eight of Carinity’s nine facilities.

The company-wide investigation was announced by Assistant Minister for Social Services Mitch Fifield on 16 February following an earlier complaint at Carinity’s Kepnock Grove facility and a series of articles published in The Australian newspaper alleging abuse and cover-up.

The sanctions on Karinya Aged Care were lifted 10 days after they were imposed. Carinity soon after requested the decision to sanction be reviewed and on 15 May announced it had commenced Federal Court proceedings seeking urgent judicial review of the serious-risk finding.

The department notified Carinity on 24 June of its decision to overturn the sanctions.

Carinity decision

DSS informs Carinity of its decision over sanctions at Karinya Aged Care facility

DSS confirmed to Australian Ageing Agenda that this was the first time it had set aside a decision to impose sanctions.

Despite this unprecedented move to reverse a sanction decision and expunge it from the record, the department maintained that imposing sanctions on Karinya Aged Care facility was the right decision at the time.

“The decision … was based on the information available at the time and was an appropriate response to protect the home’s residents at that time,” a department spokesperson said.

“Subsequent information that was available to the reconsideration delegate informed the decision to set aside the sanctions, whilst still acknowledging that the provider did not meet all of the expected outcomes.”

The nine outcomes out of 44 not met under the Accreditation Standards, and the subsequent notice of non-compliance, remain on the record and clearly show there was non-compliance at the home, the spokesperson said.

‘Demonstration of effective framework’

Despite this, the department said the turnaround on the sanction was a clear demonstration of an effective regulatory framework. “The provider was able to obtain procedural fairness through the review mechanisms that enable providers to seek a review of the Department’s actions to impose a sanction.”

Echoing this, Senator Fifield told AAA that “the process includes a review mechanism that allows subsequent information to be considered, and this process led to the department setting aside the sanction.”

Jon Campbell

Jon Campbell

However, Mr Campbell said the process had caused major distress to residents and staff, reputational damage to the organisation, and significant financial cost.

“We are pleased that the department has seen fit to overturn the sanction because we stated from the outset that we believed that the facts were wrong,” Mr Campbell told AAA.

Carinity would review whether or not it would take any further action, he said.

“It is always difficult for the regulator when allegations are made and particularly allegations reported widely in a national newspaper. But I do think there are some issues that need to be considered in relation to the audit that was done and the calling of serious risk at Karinya because we were aware very early on before the sanction was published that the facts didn’t support the calling of a sanction,” Mr Campbell said.

According to the DSS website, Carinity still has two outstanding non-compliance notices, one each at the Kepnock Grove and Colthup facilities.

Mr Campbell said his organisation had been verbally told that all of their sites have been recommended as fully compliant.

“We expect that we will be getting notification fairly soon that they are both fully compliant and those notices should be removed from the DSS website,” he told AAA.

On Friday the DSS website stated that notice of non-compliance information was up to date as of 17 June 2015.

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4 Responses to Sanctions overturned in unprecedented decision

  1. Dave July 11, 2015 at 12:31 pm #

    Final score…Lawyers: 1, Residents: 0

    The considerable number of non-compliant outcomes accross the group would indicate that something’s amiss. Or perhaps you really were squeaky clean and just had an unfortunate run of vindictive assessors?

    Carinity’s reputational damage is a consequence of systemic failure in the organisation, not a departmental witch hunt. Mr Campbell, you’d be better served by diligently addressing the sea of red flags you’re presiding over…How does winning on a technicality translate to better resident care?

    The ‘facts’ may not have supported a sanction but would you happily place your mum there?

  2. Robyn July 14, 2015 at 9:27 pm #

    As a matter of fact Dave I would. You see my mother has been a resident of this home for many years and has been, and is, very happy there. She is as “sharp as a tack” and very aware of what goes on around her. She has never had a complaint about the home and is not one to hold back if the occasion warrants. My sister works there as well, so I knew from the start that this was a witch hunt, nothing more, nothing less. Did you know that the residents were sent an official government dept letter telling them of the sanctions etc, leaving many of these frail, and some cognitively impaired, aged people in great distress as to whether they would have a home in which to remain living. Karinya has been very poorly treated, with residents, their families, and staff being put under enormous pressure for no good reason.

  3. elizabeth brophy July 15, 2015 at 12:06 pm #

    I have worked at karinya for many years and find it a privilege to look after our residents.
    I recognise the fact that we are not perfect but you tell me any HOME that is. Our residents are well looked after. Their cares attended to as requested by themselves, their families, medical and nursing needs. Their environment is clean and comfortable.The food is second to none in the industry. For those doubter get out there and see for yourself and do not be fooled by media hype

  4. kylie November 17, 2015 at 12:05 am #

    Hang on. You cant have it both ways.

    Are the AACQA doing a great job or they don’t know which way is up? (personally, my vote is for the latter)

    surely the real problem lies with the AACQA. The entire process is comical (and secretive and ineffective).

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