Junkies steal pain patches from Qld nursing home: cops
Police are probing the alleged theft of narcotic pain patches peeled off sick and elderly residents of a Noosa nursing home at the centre of a shocking abuse scandal.
Nurses have now been ordered to check residents' pain relief patches at the start and end of every shift after the appalling allegations were reported to police and Queensland Health.
Police yesterday confirmed an "ongoing" investigation into the alleged stealing of residents' pain relief drugs, as well as cash, at Japara Noosa.
"No charges have been laid at this stage," a spokeswoman said.
A Japara spokeswoman said the private aged care operator had notified the "medicine discrepancy/loss/theft" to Queensland Health's Medicines Compliance unit.
"The matter currently under investigation relates to narcotic patches and episodes where patches have been identified as missing," she said .
Japara management revealed patches were missing during a staff meeting, attended by at least 30 people, at the nursing home in Tewantin on January 21.
A whistleblower, who did not want to be identified for fear of retribution, revealed management threatened to call in police over allegations of stolen pain patches and cash from residents' bodies and bedrooms.
"We were told that patients with dementia and in severe pain were having patches peeled off," the whistleblower said.
"Narcotic patches contain a large dose of narcotics … (drug users) quite often boil down patches and ingest or inject them to get a big hit."
The whistleblower said the missing patches were initially blamed on laundering after one was found on a sheet.
"But then they found one which was covered with an external dressing, which had been removed to take off the patch, and then replaced," the whistleblower said.
The Japara spokeswoman said the company had reported missing patches to Queensland Health but not to police.
The fresh scandal comes just weeks after News Corp Australia revealed Japara Noosa had failed a surprise spot check by the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (ACQSC), which found residents in pain.
The Queensland Coroner is investigating a death at the home after ACQSC inspectors reported one resident had died of a morphine overdose while another had been bashed to death by a fellow resident.
The October audit revealed one resident had been left in pain for a month before dying, as "pain management processes were ineffective".
Inspectors found another elderly resident had suffered "frequent unrelieved pain and when pain relief was given it was not always effective".
The Japara spokeswoman said there was "no correlation between pain management deficiencies as noted in the report and the current situation" as "these incidents have occurred post the Commission report".
"We can absolutely guarantee that every resident at Japara Noosa who is prescribed a patch has a patch in situ (in place) and pain is managed in accordance with GP/specialist recommendations," she said.
The Japara spokeswoman said that as soon as the company became aware of the missing pain patches, it began requiring a registered nurse to check residents' patches at the start and end of each shift, "to ensure that it is intact, and located in the area documented on the body".
Noosa woman Christine Callil, whose father Michael Callil died in hospital after a two-week respite at Japara Noosa last June, said she was "very shocked" by the news.
"For God's sake, these elderly people are bedridden and in pain because they're lying in one spot," she said.
"Dad wasn't on morphine, but it really is a shock that something like this could happen."
Japara apologised to Ms Callil after she complained that her 97-year-old father had been left dehydrated, due to failure to give him water , and the stump of his arm became infected.
The Japara spokeswoman said the company reported the missing pain patches to Queensland Health on January 22, the same day News Corp Australia asked the aged care operator to comment on the ACQSC audit failures.
Queensland Health confirmed it was reviewing a "loss notification".
The ACQSC said it had not received any complaints about alleged drug thefts at Japara Noosa.
"In relation to the specific allegations of theft, these are appropriately dealt with by state police authorities and do not fall within the jurisdiction of the commission," Commissioner Janet Anderson said.
"The commission responded swiftly to the notification of alleged assaults of residents at the Japara Noosa aged care service (last October).
"Through this audit, the commission identified that there was an immediate and severe risk to the health, safety and wellbeing of care recipients at this service … (and) took regulatory action."
Japara escaped a financial sanction and was given a "notice of requirement to agree to certain matters", including staff training.
Japara - which operates 50 nursing homes across Australia and promotes itself as a "leading provider of high quality aged care services" - lost $292m last year despite receiving $307m in taxpayer funding.
Originally published as Junkie nurses steal pain patches from Qld nursing home: cops