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Government Inquiry into Earle Haven is no forum for legal compensation

New Inquiry into Earle Haven looks promising but won’t deliver fair compensation, writes Legal Practice Director, Jeffrey Garrett.

Attwood Marshall Lawyers have welcomed the inquiry into Earle Haven, but continue to urge former residents to seek legal advice should they have been adversely affected by the evacuation of the retirement village on July 11.

The Federal Government has announced that an investigation has been launched to examine the circumstances which lead to the collapse of aged care services at Earle Haven as well as its aftermath.

The Inquiry will be led by Ms Kate Carnell AO and will take into account relevant aged care laws, how residents’ health and well-being has been protected and the accountability of aged care service providers.

The Inquiry’s investigations through its terms of reference will consider 13 key questions, including:

  • Whether adequate emergency planning procedures were activated when residents were evacuated
  • Whether the contractual relationship between Earle Haven owner PeopleCare and HelpStreet included provisions which could have prevented the events
  • Whether a breakdown of monitoring by government departments led to the crisis
  • If appropriate risk management and emergency planning was in place and activated
  • What actions either PeopleCare or HelpStreet did to alert State or Commonwealth authorities
  • Whether the existing monitoring by the Department of Health and ACQSC was adequate and how they might be improved
  • Whether adequate controls were in place to manage Refundable Accommodation Deposits of residents

As part of its investigations, the Inquiry will be able to ask questions “of any person, company, department, agency or other entity” and it will also consider public submissions made by former residents and their families.

The Inquiry may make any recommendations related to its findings, including making recommendations for legislative reform, systemic change, or on matters incidental to its findings.

The Inquiry is required to submit its findings and recommendations to the Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians, Senator the Hon Richard Colbeck, in October 2019.

The Federal Inquiry follows The Royal Commission into Aged Care hearing evidence on Earle Haven last week.

On Friday August 19, it was also announced the Queensland Government will hold a Parliamentary Inquiry into Earle Haven, with hearings to be held on September 11 and 12 at the Royal Pines Resort on the Gold Coast.

Attwood Marshall Lawyers’ position on Earle Haven

The Inquiry is a positive step in the right direction in that it acknowledges the seriousness of the collapse of Earle Haven and that there was a significant impact of the evacuation on high needs residents.

The Inquiry may provide some answers to traumatised residents, their families, and those now grieving for a loved one who has died after being displaced.

The most vulnerable in our community deserve the highest level of legislative protections, and so any inquiry which aims to take care of those who are frail, elderly or suffering dementia, is always welcomed.

The true costs to families of the evacuation may not necessarily be recovered but it is hoped this Inquiry’s recommendations will pave the way to preventing such a disaster through legal and regulative reform.

It is important for residents and their families to understand the inquiry may not lead to any or any fair compensation for the medical and psychiatric trauma, financial losses, and hardship caused by unauthorised bank transactions, lost medical records, and the evacuation.

The situation is complex, and potentially, each individual family has a unique legal case. Former residents who were affected in any way by the evacuation can seek legal advice on their individual circumstances.

Much will depend on the agreements the residents held with Earl Haven and what approach the operator takes with respect to exit fees.

It is our view that the circumstances constitute a fundamental breach of any agreement held and all monies should be refunded without deduction.

It seems clear that Earl Haven were well aware of the problems with HelpStreet some months prior to the dramatic evacuation and this could have been avoided rather than the cavalier brinkmanship that seems to have prevailed.

Former residents who were affected in any way by the evacuation can seek legal advice on their individual circumstances, by phoning Attwood Marshall Lawyers on 1800 621 071.

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Jeff Garrett

Jeff Garrett

  • Legal Practice Director
  • Direct line: 07 5506 8201
  • Mobile: 0419 304 174