A great-grandmother was left in her urine-soaked pyjamas for three days and not showered a week at her coronavirus-plagued nursing home, family claim.
Francesca Valente, 87, lived at Cumberland Manor in Melbourne where 41 staff and 38 residents were struck down with the virus – seven of whom died while positive.
The facility was so overrun by the disease in July and August that workers were called in from the Health Department to replace the sick and self-isolating staff.
Ms Valente tested positive on July 27, and along with an increasing number of other residents was moved to rooms in a Covid-19 area of the home.
‘My mum called me crying, saying they were throwing all her things into bags and taking her out of her room and she didn’t know why,’ her daughter Teresa Parisella, 65, told Daily Mail Australia.
Francesca Valente, 87, lived at a Melbourne aged care home where 41 staff were infected and 37 residents were struck down – six of whom died
Ms Valente (right) at her granddaughter Nicole’s wedding before she needed to enter aged care
‘All the residents were so distressed. They lost most of mum’s clothes for weeks, and don’t have all of them back.’
Only two days before Ms Valente’s test results, families were notified that a staff member had tested positive.
By August 1, the outbreak was so widespread family members descended on the nursing home and vented their anger to waiting TV cameras.
Staff were dropping like flies and DHHS reinforcements were stretched thin, which families claim left residents in awful conditions.
Ms Valente’s granddaughter Simone Parisella said residents were confined to the restricted area and did not get any fresh air.
‘My nonna was left for three days in a soiled nappy with urine dripping on to the carpet, and in the same dirty clothes,’ she said.
‘They have been left in their beds to rot.’
Ms Valente’s granddaughter Simone Parisella (pictured) said the elderly woman was left in the same pyjamas and adult nappies for three days
Ms Valente tested positive on July 27 and along with an increasing number of other residents was moved to rooms in a Covid-19 area of the home
During this harrowing time Teresa would visit her mother’s window – it was the only was she was able to see her.
She was in the same clothes for days in a row, she said.
‘She hadn’t been changed, she was still in her pyjamas for three days. She suffers from incontinence and she was just drenched in urine,’ she said.
She claimed staff admitted in a Zoom conference call they weren’t showering residents, just wiping them down.
Teresa said Ms Valente, who has diabetes, wasn’t bathed for her first week in isolation. Her sister had to lobby to staff for her to be showered.
She believes other residents who didn’t have family to advocate for them were not washed for weeks at a time.
The family claimed some residents weren’t eating much because staff put trays of food out but didn’t help them eat.
‘A 92-year-old man was left to starve for four days because DHHS staff refused to help him eat because they said they can’t handle the Covid residents,’ Simone said.
Ms Valente’s family gave her a pendant phone so they could easily communicate, as staff often were too overworked to answer the phone.
The phone allowed the family a window into what they claim was neglectful treatment of sick residents.
Ms Valente (centre) with family at Nicole’s wedding when she was more mobile
Simone (pictured) and her mother claimed some residents weren’t eating much because staff put trays of food out but didn’t help them eat
Teresa believes her mother only survived because her family stayed ‘on their backs’ about her treatment.
‘I had to stay on top of them to get them to change her and make sure she had the right medication and was fed properly,’ she said.
‘A lot of the other residents didn’t have family to do that and were neglected. I think if we hadn’t been, she would have died.’
Teresa claimed there was a lot of confusion when the usual nursing home staff were replaced by DHHS workers.
‘They weren’t properly trained in how to handle infected patients, they didn’t know the histories of the residents,’ she said.
Ms Valente’s family said the first test only said coronavirus was ‘detected’, not that it was positive, then another test a few weeks later was positive.
A week after that, another test returned a negative result and her family decided to pull her out of the facility last week and look after her at home.
Her family said Ms Valente had a history of pneumonia, ending up in hospital two months earlier, and did not have any of the coronavirus symptoms that do not overlap with pneumonia.
Cumberland Manor’s response
Before Cumberland Manor’s COVID -19 outbreak on 25 July 2020, all our staff had undergone the Federal Department of Health online corona virus training and we had an infection control plan established.
After the outbreak happened, we lost more than 50 percent of our staff, meaning the work load on remaining nurses and carers was greatly increased, despite of that we worked beyond and above to provide the care that our residents need.
We worked closely with health authorities and immediately appealed for a surge workforce but the arrival of the additional staff took several days.
We did our best to provide the care that Cumberland Manor is well – known for. We keep our residents clean, by providing personal hygiene and change pads, maintained their nutrition.
We continue monitoring daily food and fluid intake – despite the fact that some lost their appetites with the COVID 19, we also weigh our residents 2x weekly to ensure their nutrition is adequate.
We even bought an extra set of weighing scales to use in the COVID – 19 section, to prevent the infection outside the cohorted area.
For our clinical care communication we use hand over form, the clinical history of each resident we do this every shift and updated daily as changes arise.
Some of the residents did not receive showers but instead were regularly washed in their beds, due to directions from Aspen Health to minimize the spread of infection within Cumberland Manor.
When the infected residents were cohorted into COVID 19 section, their belongings were packed away and labelled, to ensure they could be returned to residents.
Ms Valente (far right) with her granddaughters Simone and Nicole and great-granddaughter
Ms Valente pictured with her late husband many years ago. She survived a world war only to be ‘neglected’ in a nursing home
Teresa said when her mother’s GP looked examined her, she had lost 4kg, had a urinary tract infection, and her skin was very dry because her skin hadn’t been moisturised.
When the nursing home sent an invoice for the final month of her stay, she refused to pay and fired back an angry email on September 3.
‘Cumberland Manor has not provided the service she was entitled to since Covid-19. Most of your staff were in isolation and DHHS took over placing my mother from her original room into a smelly urine carpet room,’ she wrote.
‘Instead she suffered neglect and lack of provision of essential personal hygiene physical and mental health for one month in isolation.’
Teresa was still infuriated when speaking to Daily Mail Australia days later, wondering why the facility didn’t have enough properly-trained staff.
‘They collect all this money from residents and don’t invest it in specially trained staff or renovating the homes and ripping out that dirty, smelly carpet, where is it going? To CEOs with their lavish lifestyles?’ she said.
Simone hit out at government for not putting enough money into aged care that allowed the crisis to take hold when Melbourne’s outbreak took off.
‘Ask yourselves, where are our resources, when the most vulnerable members of the community, are the most hard hit by this virus,’ she said.
‘Because our resources aren’t in the aged care facilities protecting the vulnerable, that’s for sure. They never were from the beginning, and they still aren’t.’
Cumberland Manor manager Remedios E Vejano said the nursing home did its best to prepare for a potential outbreak before it hit on July 25.
Staff underwent the Federal Department of Health’s online coronavirus training and had an infection control plan established.
‘After the outbreak happened, we lost more than 50 percent of our staff, meaning the work load on remaining nurses and carers was greatly increased, despite of that we worked beyond and above to provide the care that our residents need,’ she said.
Privately-run nursing homes have previously complained they struggled to get government help when outbreak put dozens of staff out of commission.
A letter from a nurse at one facility last month to Leading Aged Care Services Australia warned last month it would have to close without help.
‘There are NO staff available – we are begging for help with regard to staffing, and no one wants to place themselves in the hot zone,’ the latter read.
‘Therefore, it is all up to our depleted staff to help, feed, bathe, medicate and attend to residents who are basically dying.’
Simone hit out at government for not putting enough money into aged care that allowed the crisis to take hold when Melbourne’s outbreak took off
ABC’s Four Corners revealed in August that desperate calls for reinforcements from nursing homes fell on deaf ears.
The situation at Epping Gardens Aged Care go so bad that on one shift only six staff were able to show up and care for 115 residents.
Despite being stretched so thin, the home was told not to send patients to hospital and to look after them itself.
Donna O’Brien was told her mother Maureen had tested positive and wasn’t looking too good, but then wasn’t about to get hold of the home to follow up.
‘I put the phone down. I made one call back, as usual, nobody answered, and then I called the ambulance myself,’ she said.
Aged care homes account for 534 of Victoria’s 701 coronavirus deaths, as of September 8.