Potential aged-care conflict of interest found

rholliday@dailyadvertiser.com.auTHE chief executive of a Wagga aged-care home being investigated after an elderly patient suffered a fall and died is also a director of the Aged Care Standards and Accreditation Agency (ACSAA), the main body which accredits homes so they can receive Federal Government funding.The link between Baptist Community Services which operates Caloola Centre at Wagga, whose chief executive Dr June Heinrich also sits on the board of directors of the organisation which provides the home with funding, has been slammed by Australia-wide advocacy group, Aged Care Crisis (ACC). Caloola Centre is under investigation by the federal Department of Health and Ageing following the death of a 78-year-old female resident on July 19.The resident suffered serious injuries in a fall on July 16 while a carer was transferring her into bed and she died three days later.ACC spokeswoman Lynda Saltarelli described the link as a conflict of interest."It is ironic that the chief executive June Heinrich also sits on the Aged Care Standards and Accreditation Agency board of directors," she said."In the interests of independence, it is prudent to ensure that its board of directors is independent of aged-care service provision. The agency is the principal monitor of standards in nursing homes and therefore, its board members should not have direct involvement in the provision of the regulation or monitoring."Dr Heinrich, who joined the ACSAA board of directors in December 2008, said her inclusion on the board was justified."I am not the only person associated with the provision of aged care on the board. As providers, we bring our experience in the industry and there is no conflict of interest," Dr Heinrich said."It is true the agency is the main body which assess and accredits homes so they can receive funding but we, as directors, play no part whatsoever in that assessment, training of assessors or selection of assessors. We are involved in policy mainly. If there was anything deemed to be in conflict, we would remove ourselves from inclusion in that."The 19-year-old female carer involved in the fall of the elderly woman on July 16 is expected to return to work today, Dr Heinrich said. "She was suspended on full pay pending our investigation and she will return to work under supervision. She is a young woman who is devastated by what has happened but she is a lovely carer and the residents love her. We don't want to lose her from the industry because she is very dedicated to her job," Dr Heinrich said."What happened was a tragic accident as a result of procedures not being followed but we will support this worker and the family of the resident."