Sanctions at Garrawarra due to health and safety concerns

On notice: Garrawarra Centre at Waterfall has six months to get up to scratch or it will lose its status as an aged care provider. Picture: Sylvia Liber
On notice: Garrawarra Centre at Waterfall has six months to get up to scratch or it will lose its status as an aged care provider. Picture: Sylvia Liber

A second Illawarra aged care facility has had sanctions slapped on it by the Federal Department of Health after failing to meet national standards.

Garrawarra Centre will not be eligible for federal funding for any new patients for six months after the department identified an ‘’immediate and severe risk to the health, safety and well-being’’ of residents.

The Waterfall facility also stands to lose its approval as an aged care provider unless an advisor, and an administrator, are appointed for the six-month period until November 27. Staff training must also be undertaken.

According to the health department, an assessment by the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency (AACQA) uncovered serious concerns about behavioural management at the home.

An AACQA spokeswoman said a team had made an unannounced visit to Garrawarra on May 6 and 9, followed by a full audit review from May 15-23.

Run by NSW Health, the centre is one of the few purpose-built, dementia-specific facilities in the state – with a capacity of 120 beds. 

On Wednesday South Eastern Sydney Local Health District chief executive Gerry Marr moved to assure the community that the ‘’care, comfort and support’’ of residents remained a priority.

Mr Marr said the centre had met AACQA’s standards in February 2014 and February 2017; and said the local health district and Garrawarra staff would now work with the quality agency to make the required improvements.

‘’We are confident that we will be able to regain our full accreditation status within a short period of time.’’

Mr Marr said many residents had dementia with complex care needs, requiring a high level of support.

‘’While we acknowledge the concerns raised (by the federal health department) about the need for improvement in the management of complex behaviours of some residents, we want to assure residents and families that the safety and well-being of all residents is our paramount concern.’’

Privately owned aged care provider, Hillside at Figtree, is also under sanctions for six months after a recent audit.


More revelations about failing standards at aged care facilities in the Illawarra should concern us all. 

While the imposition of sanctions by the federal government and the threat to revoke the Garrawarra Centre’s status as an aged care provider demonstrates failures in the system are being detected, it should have never have got this far.

After all, the people most affected by what’s described as a “immediate and severe risk to the health, safety and well-being” are among the most vulnerable in our community. 

These elderly people have paid taxes and contributed in other ways to society and deserve better in their autumn years than being placed at unnecessary risk in the very place they have been sent to be looked after. It is especially troubling the facility is run by NSW Health. 

While assurances have been made that the centre will lift its game and the care, comfort and support of its residents remained a priority, one can’t help wondering why serious concerns about behavioural management at the home arose in the first place. 

We certainly hope the imposition of sanctions and interim withdrawal of funding for further patients focuses the attention of management on looking after those poor souls in its care.

All of us have a stake in getting aged care on course in this country. And it’s not only about the fate of our parents and grandparents. 

Our demographic trajectory has for years foretold an ageing population that will need looking after. Getting old isn’t something we want to fear because we’re all headed in that same direction.

However, there is much to be anxious about if aged care centres fall short in their responsibilities to care for their residents. 

After all, many of us could end up in similar centres in years to come. 

We like to pride ourselves on the advances we have made as a developed society but all that means little if we do don’t look after our old people. In so-called less developed societies, extended families ensure the elderly are housed, fed, clothed, cared for and respected. 

That’s not often an option in an industrialised society but it doesn’t lessen our duty to look after those who looked after us when we were young and vulnerable.   


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