SANCTIONS against the Fremantle Italian Village aged care facility in White Gum Valley are being lifted by the Department of Health.
The department imposed the sanctions, including withholding funding for new clients, in September following a 30-page report by the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency.
AACQA conducted a series of spot checks following a spike in complaints and its report found there was a “severe risk” to the health and safety of the facility’s residents.
But this week the village’s management board told the Herald it was able to prove to the department that many of the complaints were vexatious and had been lodged or prompted by staff disgruntled over a major restructure which saw almost 40 sacked or pushed out.
One anonymous complainant claimed a resident had died after a diet mix-up, prompting AACQA to write to the man’s ‘widow’. She let them know he was alive and happy with his care, and later wrote to village CEO Fifi Schirripa urging her to find the complainant and take legal action against them.
Ms Schirripa said AACQA’s final report found just one substantiated claim of inappropriate behaviour which hadn’t involved a staff member. There had also been gaps in documentation and processes which had been ironed out.
A 25-year veteran of the aged care sector, Ms Schirripa said there was great turmoil after her appointment in February when she set out to turn the village’s finances around.
“For a start, the nursing home was not being run efficiently. It was making a loss,” she said.
“Initially I had the intention of taking the staff on the journey with me, but some people had been here for years and years and could not change.
“Some were being paid but barely doing any work.”
Ms Schirripa sacked five staff and put about 40 on performance management orders, but says many were unhappy with what was being asked of them and left voluntarily, while others left when their 457 visas expired.
She says that’s when the sniping started, including an anonymous caller to 6PR last week who claimed the village was about to go broke and close.
That’s got the village’s long-term president Tony Macri seething.
“It’s got to the point that if I knew who the people were, I would take legal action, particularly when there is no truth in these rumours,” Mr Macri said.
“As of the last few months, we have turned around to show a small profit.
“We can’t make losses if we want to complete our expansion, we have to show them we’re making some profit; it doesn’t matter if it’s $100,000 or $50,000.”
The village board wants to add more beds for acute patients.
Ms Schirripa says an in-house staff and client survey taken last month showed the turmoil had been worth it, with high satisfaction levels.
“Families who often complained before are now our biggest supporters,” she says.
by STEVE GRANT