Thursday, January 22, 2009

Karen Smith Whistleblower


May The Force Be With You!

Paper prepared by Karen Smith
for “Pathological Behaviours in the Workplace” Conference, 16 Dec. 2008

I am pleased to have the opportunity to address you all at this conference today. I invite you to come with me on a journey. The road I have travelled is the long, difficult and sometimes lonely road of the whistleblower. It is my sincere hope that my experiences may be of some benefit to you.

I am an Advanced Assistant in Nursing employed in a large, high-level care nursing home - EVENTIDE NURSING HOME, BRIGHTON/SANDGATE in Brisbane. I am 55 years old and have worked in aged care for over eight and a half years. I began my employment as a personal carer at a private aged care hostel and worked there for six months. I supplemented my hours with extra casual work at my facility. Later on I became a permanent part time employee and I remain in this position.

My task here is to tell you about my personal experiences of pathological behaviours encountered when I reported the unsatisfactory behaviours and attitudes of staff to the authorities. To achieve this I need to begin this journey by describing what led me to become a whistleblower. Secondly, I will summarise the adverse and positive impacts that reporting inconvenient truths can have on the life of a whistleblower. Thirdly, some observations on the extent of the support available to a whistleblower.

I became a “whistleblower” when my original complaints to senior staff at EVENTIDE were trivialised and mishandled. Making me a scapegoat was a deliberate, calculated part of the process. Some years later, I gave a Public Interest Disclosure to the Crime and Misconduct Commission in June 2004 regarding the assaults of three elderly psychiatric patients by two staff members, one a Registered Nurse and the other an Advanced Assistant in Nursing.

I witnessed abuse of residents long before formal complaints were made to higher authorities. As already mentioned, I had brought the matter of abuse of residents by staff to the attention of management in 2000. The treatment of myself by management at that time left me very disillusioned and distressed. Speaking out about abuse, neglect and assault was not encouraged. It soon became apparent that speaking out was also very much frowned upon, not only by management but also by some of my own peers. My most vivid memory of this time was the abuse of a very frail female resident by a staff member. This carer would mix up the resident’s food into one gelatinous mess and shovel it into the resident’s mouth. When this staff member saw me looking at her she asked me what I was looking at. I told her I wondered how long it would be before she choked the poor resident or broke her teeth. The staff member told me to “mind my own business”. (There was an angry expletive included in her response, but I will not repeat it!)

When this feeding routine and other serious incidents were brought to the attention of management, I was told that it was me who had the problem. I was accused of being abrupt and aloof. I was accused of not being a team player and I was accused of being a racist. My supposed inability to follow directions and other personal weaknesses were emphasised.

As the years went by, I became very familiar with this type of response from management because they were unable or unwilling to tackle serious incidents brought to their attention. The Code Of Conduct was often mentioned to me – not as a guide – but as a tool to further intimidate and oppress me. “Shoot the messenger” was easier than dealing with the problem. I was so traumatized by this experience that I refused to return to work in the unit where these unsavory happenings had occurred. Instead, I was offered another unit within the facility and began my night shifts there later in 2001.

In 2002, for the first time, 16 psychiatricly ill residents were admitted to one of the units. Advanced Assistants In Nursing were offered the opportunity to work with experienced psychiatric nursing staff in this unit. I had always had an interest in mental disorders and was therefore pleased to be assigned to work there.

In early 2004, I reported the assaults of three mental health patients to the Executive Director/ Director of Nursing. I was told that the matter would be investigated internally and informally. Abruptly, I was removed from working in the mental health unit. I subsequently became very distressed at this action and became ill. I was to eventually take 5 months off on unpaid stress leave. My WorkCover claim for this period was rejected at the time. A supportive Registered Nurse later informed me that the two perpetrators remained in the unit for two more months. This information caused me additional distress. Later on, this information was of great concern to the detectives investigating the case.

In May 2004 I attended a meeting with management and the two staff named by me as the perpetrators, were present. Management allowed both to be present to support each other. I believe this meeting and the way it was conducted was a turning point for me. If ever I was going to leave aged care nursing and never return, it was then. I had to endure this meeting knowing that I was as good as on my own. I was a Queensland Nurses’ Union (QNU) representative for quite some time until this meeting and the other two staff were also QNU members. I will only say that I believe I was very badly let down by the QNU organizer at this meeting. After the meeting finished, I requested copies of the notes taken. I was made to wait some time before I received these notes. I have at times taken steps to obtain documents through Freedom of Information and I have been astounded at the incompetence of some of the note taking.

After exhausting all internal avenues, I decided to make a complaint to the Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC). I was advised to make a written statement, which was duly sent on the 22 June 2004. It would be one full month before I contacted the CMC to follow up on the progress of my complaint. On the 22 July 2004, I travelled to CMC headquarters and presented my evidence. My husband and my solicitor at the time accompanied me to this interview. I reported the assaults and mistreatment of the three residents. I also reported other serious matters to the investigator and a senior detective. I have the tape-recorded interview, as this is the normal procedure when evidence of a serious nature is gathered. The outcome was that the Queensland Nursing Council eventually suspended the Registered Nurse for two years and she was subsequently dismissed. The advanced assistant in nursing eventually became one of the highest paid AAIN’s to work in my facility. She received all penalty shifts and set days off. To my knowledge the Advanced Assistant In Nursing, involved in these events, has since gracefully retired.

Under the Freedom of Information Act I was able to obtain a copy of the Queensland Police Service interview document. In August 2005, I met with staff of the Public Advocate’s Office and was asked to write a submission to the Queensland Public Hospitals Commission of Inquiry. This office acknowledged that I had credible and significant evidence to present to the Inquiry. At that time I was studying for a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in Ethics and Human Rights and Society and Change at QUT. I was granted a leave of absence and special consideration to suspend my studies, without academic penalty, while I wrote my submission. This document was submitted to the Queensland Public Hospitals Commission of Inquiry on the 14 October 2005.

Meanwhile, my role as a whistleblower continues. In the past three years I have brought other serious matters to the attention of the federal Department of Health and Ageing, the Crime and Misconduct Commission, the Premier’s office, the Minister for Health, the Leader of the Opposition, different members of Parliament and the media. I have appeared on television on the 7.30 Report with Senator Santo Santoro; I have had numerous articles published in different newspapers; I have been interviewed by Madonna King on radio; I have recently appeared on Network Ten News and I have been interviewed by the Queensland Police Service.

I am now going to pre-empt a question that may be asked of me during question
time. It is a question that is often asked of me by care staff, other nurses, friends, relatives and reporters. Would I do it again? The answer is: Yes. Would I recommend it to others? Not without clear knowledge of the impact that a disclosure will have on your life and the lives of the people closest to you. Unswerving support is needed from those closest to you. Those who have intimate knowledge of the consequences of such a step will tell you how imperative it is to have absolute support.

The next part of this presentation about my whistleblower journey concerns the adverse and positive aspects of the reporting of inconvenient truths. I cannot stand here today and lead you to believe that the road travelled by the whistleblower is in any way easy. When I support or advocate for other whistleblowers, staff members or anonymous covert disclosers, I emphasise that once this journey begins – there is no turning back. The treatment you may endure when you become a whistleblower can be devastating.

You can expect to be labelled. Being labelled with a Personality Disorder is often a comment by staff opposed to disclosures. You may be called derogatory names. You will certainly be isolated. Some people may only be capable of being covertly supportive; such is the fear of the consequences of speaking out. You can expect to be forced to undergo hours of testing if you make a claim for psychological or psychiatric injury through WorkCover. You can expect to be the subject of a great deal of gossip and rumour, which will damage your reputation. I have found that some rumours are quite interesting, but rarely based in fact. You can expect to receive legal threats and threatening memorandums from different entities. Or - as in my case - threats of criminal charges being brought against you. You can expect to be the recipient of many hours of investigation or interviews. You can expect to be accused of “tarring all nurses with the same brush”. You most certainly will be accused of lying. You can expect reprisals in the form of work shift changes, penalty shifts being removed and being reported for minor misdemeanors. You will certainly experience health problems. You can expect, at times, to feel very much alone. Welcome to my world!!

What about the positive aspects of being a whistleblower?
A determined whistleblower learns to be courageous and determined that the issues they report will have an outcome. Adopting strategies to protect themselves from the pathological behaviour of others is important and character building. A determined whistleblower will begin to learn that you can become immune or desensitized to the gossip and rumours that are most certainly brought to your attention. Another positive outcome, for me personally, was the ability to maintain my dignity and self-respect. Even on the worst days of my whistleblower journey, I have never lost my self-respect. Indeed, I believe my self-respect has increased.

The outcome I would personally like to witness would be that policies and procedures are actually implemented. When there is irrefutable evidence that wrongdoing has occurred, the perpetrators reported will be held to account for their actions. The whistleblower disclosing the allegations would be commended rather than condemned.

Another positive aspect is the wonderfully supportive people that you meet when you become a whistleblower. This aspect cannot and should not be under-estimated. I have personally met some very supportive people. Some, I might add, are residents’ family members who have contacted me.

Ideally, on the positive side of things there are lessons to be learned which enhance the values of our society. Those who take on the whistleblower role, and who present credible evidence, have the right to question authorities, to ask for accountability, transparency and for wrongs to be righted. Specifically, conscientious nurses in our health care system should be able to report abuse, assault and neglect without fear of reprisal.

This brings me to the question - what support is there for whistleblowers?
I am optimistic that the Whistleblower Protection Act will be changed to include the recommendations of Tony Morris QC. He has suggested that when a whistleblower has exhausted all internal avenues, has approached all recommended authorities and still has no satisfactory outcome, that the whistleblower be able to contact the media.

Not surprisingly, my experience is that my support has often come from outside the workplace. I have had the privilege of meeting lawyer, Susan Moriarty and her staff, who have supported me and encouraged me since I was accepted as a client in 2005. Although I am no longer a client, I am extremely grateful to have had this support. We travelled this long, difficult road together for quite some time and I believe learnt many valuable lessons along the way. As you know, Susan was one of the speakers at this conference yesterday.

I was in the Magistrates court for the first two days of the Inquiry. I saw the great respect that Tony Morris showed to Toni Hoffman when she had finished giving her evidence. I was privileged to be present when Toni Hoffman and Doctor Con Aroney received their awards from Whistleblowers Australia. She was accused of racism and having interpersonal communication issues when she dared to speak out.

In my view, the best protection and support for whistleblowers is networking. This involves gathering around you people of a like mind who are committed to supporting you and travelling beside you for at least part of the long journey. I joined Whistleblowers Australia and I remain a proud member. The Whistleblowers Australia website has invaluable information for anyone contemplating disclosure.

In the midst of this harsh journey when things were particularly challenging, I woke up one morning with the answer to the dilemma of how to help other whistleblowers. My idea is called SING which stands for Silence Is Not Golden. This initiative is designed for nurses and health professionals who need support when they are making – or have made – a decision to become a whistleblower. In your conference proceedings you have an image of the newspaper advertisement that I paid for last year when I launched this idea. I am grateful to www.badapplebullies.com for providing a spot for this advertisement on their website as an interim measure. An experienced whistleblower, in my view, has an obligation to support and protect others who demonstrate the fortitude and courage to speak out. Members of SING Support Group attended the headquarters of the federal government’s Department of Health and Ageing only last week. We were to present to the Crime and Misconduct Commission tomorrow to discuss serious matters of misconduct and reprisal against one of our members. I was given a message yesterday while I was attending this conference that this meeting has been postponed. This is the second time this has occurred. This casual whistleblower confided to me that she had witnessed abuse and assault and did not know what she should do. When the appropriate authorities were contacted and we asked for a meeting to guarantee her protection, we were rebuffed. I remain passionate about the protection of whistleblowers reporting abuse, assault, neglect or harm of the vulnerable elderly or disabled citizens in their care. It is absolutely imperative that the fear factor is eliminated for staff blowing the whistle.

When I was studying at QUT I used to pass a classroom that had a daily quotation written on the whiteboard. One day I found it was a quote from Martin Luther King Jr which has a great deal of relevance to me
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter” Please don’t let your lives begin to end by remaining silent about things that matter. My experiences have left me with a conviction that people suffer more – much more - when they remain silent.


Finally, I wish to state that allowing whistleblowers to speak out safely promotes honest, efficient and compliant workplaces. In fact, if we want to achieve high quality care in our health care delivery system, supporting genuine whistleblowers is essential. It is not an optional extra.

Thank you for your time and attention and for travelling on this journey with me today.

THIS SPEECH RECEIVED A STANDING OVATION BY ALL THOSE PRESENT. OVER 220 PEOPLE ATTENDED THIS CONFERENCE HELD BY AUSMED CONFERENCES PTY LTD .

ON THE 25 FEBRUARY 2009 IN A THREE PAGE LETTER TO KAREN SMITH, HER EMPLOYMENT WAS TERMINATED BY QUEENSLAND HEALTH.

Karen Smith's email address: kaz3535@bigpond.com.au
TO VIEW ALL SING POSTS, SIMPLY RETURN TO THE TOP SECTION AND CLICK ON THE WORD "SING" IN THE RECTANGULAR BOX OR GO TO (1) 'HOME' ON THE RIGHT HAND SIDE OF SING'S WEBSITE.

63 comments:

  1. Dear Karen
    An excellent job. Clear and precise.
    The real issue is what is the Qld Govt doing about it - and why is it not on the front page of every newspaper until it is fixed.
    There is a 'Seniors' newspaper. I recommend you send them a copy.
    Keep up the good work.
    Peter B

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  2. I am proud of you Karen

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  3. The AAIN that Karen refers to above, did get all the penalty shifts on night duty, but not as a reward as Karen would like you to believe, but like the rest of the fulltime nightshift workers in that Unit, they all were offered fixed rosters if they wanted them.
    No one else in the Unit wanted nightshift, so it was easier to do a roster if you had people working fixed nights each week.
    This included the RNs and EENs as well.

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  4. Wonderful to be offered such an opportunity for the staff concerned. SING has evidence that an ex-employee was informed by her Nursing Unit Manager - when she requested to remain on her preferred night shifts with her set days off - that she was being greedy.
    It has also been brought to SING's attention that this offer to favoured staff is not seen to be fair and equitable by many staff at Eventide, contrary to this post. Perhaps this is the type of offer that causes angst to staff who do not receive the same. Evidence will be posted shortly proving SING's statements. The roster should not only be fair and equitable, IT SHOULD BE SEEN TO BE FAIR AND EQUITABLE. Any investigator contracted to audit Eventide's rosters will tell at a glance who are the chosen few. So can other staff - so can others who work in Workforce. Some have reported to SING their disgust at the directions they have been given regarding the chosen few. Some have reported the pressure put on them to reward the chosen few. If they don't - they don't receive their shifts. Some have been disgusted when particular full time staff are rewarded with overtime, when part time and casual staff are available to work. Preference of shift appears not to be an issue at Eventide - fairness and equity certainly is. And on it goes.

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  5. As stated above there are a few chosen people to whom are looked after and receive more than their fair share of extra shifts. It is a known problem at Eventide. I have seen one person on average of 3-4 times a week doing double shifts, these including nights going into morning shifts only to be back for an afternoon. You can NOT tell me that this person will be functioning to their full capacity. This is when accidents happen, such as skin tares. I do not agree with everything that Karen is doing but in saying that she has some good points.

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  6. Former Registered Nurse of EventideFebruary 25, 2009 at 11:40 PM

    How could you not agree with everything this women is doing. All Karon Smith is doing is protecting our elderly and trying to act as an advocate. Authorities should not win here, I hope our elderly prevail.

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  7. It's a pity that I cannot respond as you are anonymous, but of course that is the way you probably like it. That way people cannot dispute your allegation. I will let the documented evidence speak for itself on this website and of course, I deny your allegations. In fact I can disprove the WorkCover statement with documentation. Would you like me to do this?But I must warn you, you may not like what you read. Perhaps you should provide your evidence of these allegations and you may sound more credible.
    Nothing will ever be posted on the main body of this website that is not documented. Perhaps you should do likewise.

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  8. Response:
    Do you actually read the posts and the documented evidence? Are you so consumed by hatred for me that you do not even bother to read what is in front of your face? You state that she is a thief, liar and greedy. How do you equate greed with many thousands of dollars lost? How do you equate thief with documents being delivered to my home by staff so desperate they put their jobs on the line? Who have trusted me never to reveal their identities and took that extraordinary risk. How do you equate liar with a website that only posts evidence that is in documented form? There is no Whistleblower's club. There is certainly a Whistleblowers Australia organisation. I am a member. There are very few Whistleblowers. There are many staff however, who have been let down when they have spoken up and reported serious matters to people they believed to be honourable. Many of these decent staff have been very disappointed and disillusioned by the reporting system.
    I was approached and asked to give a speech. The nurses at the conference and the subsequent speech given did not appear to agree with you that I was menace to society nor do they appear to have believed that I was "attention seeking".

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  9. Let's have your proof that signatures can be seen on any footage. Let's have your proof that I stole anything. Let's have your proof that I used anybody. Let's have your proof that I have a band. Aren't you then acknowledging that there are a band of supporters. I have not heard one comment from you regarding the rights of the seven female victims of this man. You hide behind your anonymity to abuse me and this website because you are certainly not in any way a professional. A professional in this case would have been caused extreme distress in forwarding on these progress notes. A professional would have agonized over what was the ethical and moral thing that ought to be done for the common good of all concerned. A professional would understand the rights of these seven frail aged female residents was paramount. Are you saying that the staff who left the unit in disgust were unprofessional? Are you saying that they didn't follow procedure and report these matters, because there is absolute proof that they did. Are you saying that the first informant went off on many weeks sick leave because she was unprofessional and reported nothing, because there is absolute proof that she reported to management. A professional would also look at all of the evidence before making a decision. A professional did, and made the courageous decision that when the victims numbered seven, action needed to be taken. Management were unprofessional in this serious case. Mangement covered up the abuse. Management were informed by many staff of these sexual assaults and did nothing. Staff reported and once again they were ignored. Just like they have ignored the recent abuse case in Ebbtide House committed on night shift by a well known abusive AIN.
    YOU take a step back and give some empathy and sympathy to the seven frail, female wictims.
    You take a step back and give some empathy to the staff who suffered because they were ignored by managment. Do you really think that the CMC would direct Queensland Health to investigate if Eventide management had managed this appropriately?
    YOU take a step back, honey, and put up your documented proof for all us to see.
    Send me your proof and up on this website it can go.

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  10. I know for fact....that a CNs signature was visible on TV, so don't try and deny it...if you want proof, i will try and get the video footage that I know exists because it has been shown to me.

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  11. You obviously don't look at the website. You are so busy castigating and abusing me that you haven't noticed that two Network Ten segments are already up on the website to view. Just click on play as if you are watching TV. Network Ten gave permission for this footage to be posted on SING's website. I suggest you have a good look at it along with the George Hadgkiss footage. No signatures of staff can be seen of this footage, contrary to your statements. If you give me your particulars I will personally send the footage to you for you to keep. I also have a radio interview with Madonna King to post - would you like a copy of that?

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  12. Whistleblower Status is not given arbitrarily/on request.
    Nor is it a club that one can join by whim.
    It is given based on a number of factors including tho not exclusive to
    (1) credible significant @ substantive evidence ,
    (2) to promote and prompt thorough investigation,
    (3)AFTER Internal Reporting is EVIDENT and to be seen to have FAILED or been curtailed.
    (4)And to gain protection from reprisal that has been exhibited.
    The internal reporting system was apparently lacking in Bramble House in 2007 evidenced by the continuence of abuse,the exodus of staff,
    This situation did not change until a reputable diligent @ professional
    Nurse Unit Manager was appointed in 2008
    The ward was segregated, and the reporting system was scrupulously implemented with support and trust
    The Public @ nurses pass information onto SING and other advocacy groups after reporting to Nurse Unit Managers @ DOHA with ineffectual outcomes and ongoing incidences of the concerns raised initially.
    Karen Smith and SING are not self seeking publicist for personal agrandisment but an advocate for residents experiencing Proven Failed Clinical Care as evidenced by documented conclusions by
    Qld Health. posted on the website
    Karen Smith AIN has exemplary performance appraisal from the CNC/acting Nurse Unit Manager in her workplace which is posted on the website
    Her advocasy and care are missed and lost to her coworkers and residents

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  13. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  14. This comment was deleted as it was a continuing personal attack and added nothing to the website.

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  15. Posts that are purely personal attacks will be deleted. They do not add to debate. They do not add to the website. If you want a website that is free to personally attack everyone - create your own website and release your venom there, you will not do it here. You are hiding behind anonymity to bully and abuse.

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  16. Bullying and harassment is the silent cancer that has the highest impact in any workforce.Aged care, whether it be government, private or non for profit, is an environment where bullying and harassment impact on resident care daily.
    It is a Workplace Health and Safety policy breech causing many staff, health issues, being physical or psychological and a known cause for loss of confidence and self worth. Suicide is a known by product of bullying when staff become fearful and emotionally drained.
    A physical injury is observable and the claim process with Work Cover is usually immediate and without question.
    A psychological claim is slow, interrogating and destructive. 99% claims are rejected.
    It is usually at this point that staff resign and the bully wins again.
    Not many staff have the finance or the physical and psychological energy to continue with the appeal or the tribunal.
    As stated bullying is a Workplace Health and Safety breech as is a Manual Handling breech.
    The difference being, the Manual Handling breech is recognised as a risk to the resident,staff and the organisation and is tangible and visible and usually but not always reported.
    Bullying ( staff to staff) however is not seen as a risk to residents or the organisation.
    This is because or the non visible impact and the non reporting culture that exists in aged care.
    How wrong this is - the manual handling breech is addressed with warning and repeated education and the staff member is identifiable.
    Not so with Bullying - this is silent and insidious, used as power at any level of the organisation and usually conducted with out witness.
    Organisations that conduct business with bullying at all levels of management will always have high staff turnovers at all levels.
    It becomes the norm culture regardless of whatever policies are in place and has evidenced impact on staff turnover stats, increased resident incidents, increased staff injuries and sick leave, not to mention budget impacts.
    Bullies are pathological power seekers with no respect for anyone, even themselves.
    The DOHA need to recognise that facilities with a history of non compliance also have a culture of bullying that is not addressed.
    There is a direct impact on the lives of residents and care delivered.
    Constant shortages on rosters are an indication of staffing issues which in turn impacts on care.
    Organisations may have whistleblower policies in place, unfortunately history shows that whistleblowers are not protected in the workplace. They become the victim and are hunted down and destroyed.
    The many government departments trusted to manage complaints and whistleblower protection
    need to act with integrity and courage.
    The political games and handshakes have to stop.
    Aged care needs your strong decisions to lead the way to change the environments of bullying and harassment so that residents can receive care delivered by dedicated and skilled staff.

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  17. I had a nervous breakdown after i was bullied and intimidated by management.. My life was destroyed over a 9 month period. I am still having counselling 12months on. I was stood down with full pay and they still found nothing. Good for you Karen. Management does not care about there residents, they only care about there big pay packets.. The scary part is one is a catholic and she goes to church every Sunday. I had respect for this woman. She has sold her soul to the devil. What price to pay to keep your arse in some high paying position. I would like Tony Morris QC and Micheal Smith (4BC) come to Eventide and have a look around. Just so they can see where there tax payer dollars are going?? Screw the hospitals, sink the money into management in aged care. How can they sleep at night??? Yes they are corrupt, every last one of them.

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  18. Kez - you are not alone, it happens to many including managers who speak out for residents rights. I have been down your road and it is a long way back out of the black hole.
    The treatment that middle mangers receive is not different to any other staff person.
    To imagine that mutiple elderly women had to endue rape and molestation while management looked the other way is beyond belief knowing that a criminal offence has been committed.
    Is that not called aiding the act?
    Why are our residents not entitled to the same justice as any other member of the community.
    Residents are not interned prisoners - they have the same legal rights as you or me.
    It is the residents who have no family to speak for them that suffer because no one cares.
    Imagine this happening to a polititions mother!
    Where has the Duty of Care gone????
    Duty- that which one is bound to do by moral or legal obligation
    Care -protection, to be affected emotionally, to look after, make provision for.
    What has happened to the care factor in Nursing? The Dollar and self appointed power!
    Registered Nurses are accountable
    and measureable by the AMNC Competency Standards - every single one of them.
    Registered Nurses sign their registration forms every year as being compliant to these competencies.
    It is time for the QNC and other regulatory authorities to take a stand on complaints about Registered Nurse's behaviours.
    If the QNC took stronger action on nurses reported for failure to report criminal offences maybe we would see more accountability by Registered Nurses, in particular those who hold senior positions.
    The industry would benifit from a higher profile of QNC representatives visiting workplaces and educating Nurses on their responsibilities as opposed to QNU members who choose who they represent regardless of membership and who do nothing for the morale of Registered Nurses who work in an industry of forced silence and unrealistic workloads.
    Many frail aged residents cannot vote - but the families and their advocates can.
    Lip service does not cut it anymore.

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  19. To the above comment March 10, 2009.
    I agree with your comment. The QNC should visit these aged care facility's. It is a shame on there part that they choose to ignore what is going on around them. I am all for the QNU but lets face it, they only take on what they want. They see all the management and the absolute waste of taxpayers money. I am an AIN and it saddens me what some of my residents have to endure at the hands of these so called professional people.It is supposed to be a home like environment, far from it. It would be nice to go to the shop and bye some hot chips for them. God forbid if they choke on them? You will find yourself in court for resident abuse. In my many years of working in the aged care sector, i have witnessed many things? I have seen residents in palliative care and still leave this world in pain. Why, because the RN on duty is incompetant. They should be made to go back into the hospital system and review there skills. In having said that there are also a lot of competant RN'S, these are the ones that have respect for themselves and there residents. You will find that these RNS and EENS do hands on with patient care because they are having contact with them and there feelings. Lets hope things will change for them, our elderly people. I hope to hear our frail say to me(i am home, this is where i want to be). Karen has respect for herself and the people she cares about. All the best for the future Karen.

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  20. This comment was emailed to SING.
    What poetic justice it would be to see all Eventide management stood down and replaced by those who actually care for the health and safety of the residents and new management that encourage and invite staff and make them feel welcome to come forward with any concerns.
    To have the facility run as a safe, harmonious nursing home where all are treated as equal no matter your status. But we do not live in a what if world. Only an Inquiry will help save this facility. I worked at the facility for 10 months as in that short time saw one nurse continually abuse residents time and time again. The stories told to me would bring the hardest criminal to tears and yes I did report it and yes I have never received a shift since.

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  21. They don't give a damn about anyone, except there big wages? We could all live in hope that it would be harmonious and safe. Thank you lord that my mother did not endure this.. To management, take your soul back and repent for your sins..

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  22. Working as an AIN at a QH Facility in a country town I witnessed so many incidents of resident abuse.

    It was common for the NUM to direct the staff to shut a resident ( in her 50s) in a store room so that staff including herself were not disturbed by her screaming.
    At one point of time this resident screamed for over a week with no intervention.
    Only when the puss was oozing from her ears was a doctor called for medical intervention.
    Wandering dementia residents were inappropriately placed in a facility that was not designed for them nor were there appropriate interventions for them.
    These residents were chemically retrained based on the recommendations of a CN who pracised chemical restraint with gusto.
    This same CN gloried in her Nurse Initiated Priviage.
    If she favoured the night staff, residents were administered a night "toddy" ( Tamazepam).
    If she did not favour the night staff, residents were administered aperients. Those staff were guarenteed of a very hads on night.
    This same CN would humiliate and belittle any new RN in the unit.
    Her pracice was to wander outside for a smoke at the DD count time - her purpose was to place the RN in a non compliant and breech of policy situation.
    Another practice was to state derogitive comments about the RN including calling her a F.... W.... to other staff in hte smoke area.
    Residents who complained were punished in many ways and they knew fear of retaliation.
    Eg: chemical restraint.
    Another resident was given an injection authorised by the mental health team, based on the mental health assessemnt by this CN ( not mental health trained)This resident suffered
    permanent physical and psychological damages.
    Was the unit manager aware - yes.
    Was the District Director aware - Yes.
    Was action taken - NO.
    Was this CN reported to the governing body advised -NO
    Is the CN and the UNIT MANAGER still there - YES.
    Are the residents still at RISK - YES.
    Does Q H care - NO

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  23. Do not be disillusioned that this is only happening in QH Facilities.
    There are similar elder abuse issues happening in the non for profit sector.
    Does it get reported - NO
    And you wonder why there is a shortage od RN EEN AIN PC staff on aged care.
    Why would our integrity as a Nurse?

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  24. Thank heavens for your courage Karen. I know how you have felt along your journey. Disgust for the perpertrators, fear for those in your care, fear for your livlihood and your sanity by the cruel attacks on your own profesionalism. Shifts being cut, terrible things said about you and to you about your understanding of your job description. And it goes on and on. I made a statement along with other good people in 2003 to the local police about abuse in the facility where I was employed. This matter has taken years in the justice system and finally 2 years ago some of the cruelest, nastiest people were committed to trial. Still waiting for the trial to go ahead. One of these people is still working in the industry in a local aged care facility. And they know her trial is pending. I have no respect for the legal processes and justice system that allow good lawyers to stall for time over and over again. It is a nightmare that that never ends. You say you would do it again if you must, but I doubt I would be strong enough for that. But good on you for all your efforts.

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  25. Mr Springborg - are you the man with the courage to support nurses in aged care who have been silenced and punished for speaking out on behalf of residents ?
    Will you support an indenpendent enquiry into the abuse and criminal acts happening in aged care facilities?
    The Labour Government are not interested in taking action.
    The QNU certainly do not want to be involved.
    Why ? because it is Registered Nurses who have failed their Duty of Care and breeched their Code of Conduct, Code of Ethics and have committed an unlawful act.
    It is also Senior Management Staff in QH who have failed to act.
    DOHA only act on what is written - it seems staff interview evidence is not valid evidence.
    Support us with an enquiry and we will support you on March 21.
    We need a Hero and we don't mind how you wear your underwear.

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  26. We see the media exposure given to the recent alleged rape of a young woman by a superstar football player.
    The response and opinion per the media has been remarkable.
    Why not such a response when 7 frail aged ladies suffered the same illegal act?
    Is this ageism at it worst or is it because they do not share the same profile with the public?
    When a elderly man has his jaw broken by a Registered Nurse - why was this not recogised as a criminal act.
    If he lived anywhere other than in a Residential Facility he would have received far more support from the public and the law.
    Does your mother/father reside in an Residential Facility?
    How can you guarentee their safety and the credibility of those trusted to care for your loved one.
    A police check is only as good as the day it is issued.
    Residents have rights but most of them are unable to enforce those rights.
    Whistleblowers are their voice - speak out and be heard.

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  27. Anna Bligh
    What do we the nurses in aged care want?
    We want an independent enquiry by HQCC into suspicious deaths and criminal abuse in aged care facilities.
    We want a government that will hear us, investigate and take action on those responsible regardless of position or rank.
    Are you going to hear our cries for help?
    You have until March 21 to give your response.

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  28. Being responsible for harassment and bullying which causes staff and residents to feel intimidated, threatened, violated, drained of self worth and so alone, must be such a powerful physical sensation.
    Like minded people feed off this power for their own personal gain no matter what the cost to the oppressed.
    When staff and residents are driven to suicide from the despair of this constant oppression, does this not raise the issue of intent and is bullying and harassment not then the weapon of the cause of death.
    Does this then justify - "reasonable action" by Management when no action is taken?
    Who is then accountable?
    Aged care is supposed to be a caring environment free of oppression and violence but sadly this is not the culture in many aged facilities and so many dedicated staff leave the industry for self preservation.
    The residents are not always privilaged to being able to go home or move onto another facility. They remain and the suffering continues - until a whistleblower speaks out.

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  29. I have experienced first hand the short falls of the aged care system, having just lost my mother through dementia after seven years in a nursing home.
    I have witnessed many carers' (wanting to do the right thing by their residents), but being too frightened to speak up and report abuses for fear of being ostracised by the establishment.
    The above situation is endemic in institutions where the almighty dollar over- rides humanitarian conscience and true duty of care to the frail and infirmed.
    It is a blight on our society that the only way that mistreatment in aged care facilities can be resolved is for some carers with the fortitude to stand up and report the true situation; but at considerable cost to them selves.
    I have had the need to go into writing on a number of occassions to see that my mother's basic rights were protected.
    I can relate to Karen Smiths' crusade on this subject, while applauding her courage and tenacity.
    The "whistleblowers" in bringing perpetrators to account in nursing homes are true heroines
    and should receive societies full support.
    The Australian Government is remiss in not enforcing fool proof leglislation in providing greater protection for Whistleblowers.
    I admire people like Karen and fully endorse their aims.
    Thanks Karen.

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  30. I fully support an Indepenent Enquiry into all aspects of aged care.
    The larger the organisation the more ruthless they become.
    Is the public aware of the percentage of govenment funded dollars, that is creamed off each facility's budget to fund the positions of senior staff - executives salaries.
    This is why wages for the workers are so non competetive and only one of the reasons aged care is struggling to attract staff to the industry.
    The bullying and harassment at senior level is sinister and silent and not unlawful.
    At an executive level it is called " reasonable manaagement" and the law fully supports the organisation.
    The pillaging of care dollars for executives and top heavy organisations is the white collar crime of aged care.
    The care and compassion stated in many organisation's avertising and philosophy statements is non existent.
    The dollar is the focus not the resident.
    The not for profit is nonsense and christian ethics attracts no funding therefore does not exist.

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  31. The abuse residents in aged care suffer would stop if all facilities installed surveillance cameras in all areas.
    Some will say this is a breech of privacy.
    My mother is on care and I cannot monitor her care 24/7 - I would give permission for the cameras and would volunteer to pay for the insallation in her room.
    Her safety is my nightmare and conscience.
    I work in aged care and I am aware of the wonderful staff who care give with their hearts.
    I am also aware of the untrained, uneducated and agressive personalities who are employed in aged care.
    I am also aware of the personalities who bring their religious and judgemental beleifs to the workplace and inflict them on vulnerable residents.
    I am my mother's advocate and I will speak out and take action to protect her, as she has done during my vulnerable developing years.

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  32. Mr Springborg wants automatic 3 mth jail sentence for assualt of a police officer.
    We want the same for assault of a resident in an aged facility - who is more vulnerable and less able to defend themselves????

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  33. Response to the above.
    My mother is on care and cameras with family permission were used to capture abuse.
    Toileting abuses were captured.
    Slapping was observerved.
    Taunting was observed.
    Cameras should be installed in all facilities.
    Cameras do not lie and can be used as evidence.

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  34. God save us the Labour Party is back in.
    Anna Bligh - its up to you now.
    Are you going to listen to the nurses in aged care in your state?
    Aged care is federal funded in all aged care facilities.
    Queensland Health own several facilities that are in questionn of abuse, death and whistle blower mistreatment.
    This is the Labour Government responsibility.
    You are responsible for your health minister.
    Please be the Leader strong enough to hear the cries of residents who are abused and tortured in many Queensland Health facilities.
    Staff do not remain in aged care because no one is listening and no one cares.
    The assaults in aged care are criminal and not reported and the victims are frail, vulnerable and not heard.
    Please take action to support and protect the whistle blowers who are the voice of the abused.

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  35. Anna Bligh - please give us a Health Minister who will listen to Nurses and support us - we are deminishing in numbers rapidly.

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  36. Please assist me as I am so confused.
    Who exactly is accountable for the suspicious deaths and violent assaults of frail aged residents?
    Is it not the person in the position to act and take accountability of ensuring safety and security for these vulnerable, valuable members of our society?
    If you are this person please act now.

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  37. Anna Bligh - please select your Ministers and their responsibilities very carefully.
    Nurses want the Health Minister to have integrity and compassion for all areas of Health.
    Nurses want the minister to listen to them.
    Nurses want the minister to support an enquiry into the culture of abuse and suspicious deaths of residents in aged facilities.
    Nurses want the minister to provide strong leadership.
    Nurses want a minister who will challenge the QNU and the QNC to be accountable for their decision making and lack of action in the past.
    Nurses want an open and transparent Health System with all services.
    Nurses want an honest Health Minister.
    Nurses do not want Mr Robertson - he does not meet the criteria.

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  38. The Labour party is back in. You would think after 11years the public would learn. All those fat cats taking the cream off our taxpayers dollars, can sit back and carry on wasting QHealth dollars. How many high payed positions do you need for Eventide? Decreased beds means more hierarchy. Please explain Anna? Feel free to come to Eventide and have a look for yourself. 42 million for transitional care? I don't think so. Take responsibility for the QHealth management.

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  39. Paul Lucas - you are now responsible for health. Welcome aboard.
    Health includes QH aged care facilities.
    Please read this web site .
    We need your support.
    We must have an Enquiry.
    Some one has to listen to us because as as I type residents will be abused and staff intimidated into silence

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  40. 42 Million for transitional care.
    Who is applying for this money?
    Not for profit to finance budget crisis related to reduced funding under the now 12 months old ACFI funding tool.
    The reality is:
    Staffing ratios have been reduced.
    RN hours slashed to " dangerous".
    EEN now doing RN and CN duties regardless of what the QNC says is Scope of practice.
    Regardless of how loud the QNU screams, this will continue.
    AINs are being replaced by PC models in many organisations in both low and high care.
    PCs under their award can "assist " with medication.
    In high care it is not "assist" it is "administer" because most high care residents cannot be assisted they have medication administered.
    Many PCs do not even have the Certificate 111 in Aged Care as a minimum education and they are " assisting " with medication.
    Why are so many facilities failing the 2009 accreditation?
    Lack of clinical assessment and supervision,impacting on care.
    Are RNs concerned about being responsible for PC models?
    Yes they are because an RN is registered and a PC is an unregulated worker not accountable to any authority.
    Yes the organisation is responsible for monitoring performance but as we read on this web site - nothing is done.
    Who is going to supervise and monitor the resident in the transitional funded bed in an aged care facility?
    If there is no RN with the appropriate expertise ,in the unit, there should be no funding for transitional beds to that facility.
    The clinical intervention at this point of transition is vital to recovery.
    If there is no clinical intervention and supervision the resident might as well be admittted to an aged care facility and save the transition dollars,and the anxiety and time wasted for the resident and family.

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  41. I am an AAIN. I have a great respect for most of the RN,S i work with. Some can be very caring and supportive others are hanging in there for retirement. There are many staff who are post retirement age. With all due respect to them, but they are really not interested in what is going on around them. There skills are way out dated. They cringe when a young university trained RN is employed. I have seen many elderly people pass over this world in a great deal of pain. Why? The older RN,S are lacking the skills to give these people the palliative care that they need. Good luck Karen hope you can some how make a difference. We all need to treat these frail aged with the greatest dignity we can possibly give.

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  42. I agree. Aged Care is Palliative care.
    Many RNs and CNs who work in age care have very out of date skills and the distressing factor is PAIN Management is one of them.
    Some RNs are only too willing to earn new skills and some take on extra study and duties not funded by the organisation.
    The updating in skills is the responsibility of the organisation.
    The problem is when budgets are trimmed, education is targeted.
    Mentoring is not funded in many organisations thus it does not happen and staff do not learn on the job with support.
    Staff who choose to be employed in aged care should not have to be educated on compassion, dignity and respect.

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  43. Education is targeted,budgets are trimmed? Why does our government give cash payouts to the professionals that work for Qhealth to upgrade there skills? Don't give cash payouts, go back into the hospital system to upgrade there skills they would be very surprised at how hard our Rn's on the hospital wards are working? There are two nurse educators at Eventide. We have many staff over the campus, but for some reason they educate one or two people at a time? I applaud the nurses that work in palliative at Redcliffe Hospital and RBH for there dedication and there skills in managing pain. In a perfect world we will all die with dignity and respect.

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  44. I see there is no comment with this? The government give these people cash incentives to stay in the work place, but do they upgrade there skills? God help me if i die in an aged care facility. I will make sure this will never happen? I can only hope that these people at the top of the big salary chain will suffer this fate......

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  45. Karen you may be gone from Eventide, but management is now doing everything by there policies? They are all running scared because you spoke out. It is not before time that management may some how be accountable for there actions? This will never happen? They are protecting there own arse? They are worried about a class action investigation... Rightly so.. They should worry. I would be the first one to show up...

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    Replies
    1. Kez....this is 2012...I am curious as a student of whistleblower aftereffects, if you went further down the path of standing up for your rights and exposing the wrongdoings...

      Delete
    2. If you go back to the top of this page and click on the word SING in the rectangle, you will be able to catch up on the last three years. That may answer your question. In fact only today I met with an aged care worker to work out how to help her with Queensland Health minions determined to destroy her. Her crime: She spoke out about the abuse of the elderly happening in her facility. So the work still goes on.

      Delete
  46. Hi Karen, I just watched Law & disorder on ABC, hold your head high. I have had no luck with Qld Health with Dr Peter Roper at Rocky Base, and I have the proof, the CMC have not assisted either, anyway a quote from the Legend Kyokushin Karate master, "Personal greed and egoism are things that cause human beings to forget respect for
    others and to violate rules that have been established for the sake of peace and
    friendship."~Mas Oyama~

    _____________Cheers Denis (denaub69@hotmail.com)
    _____

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  47. G'day Karen, Was given your site by a friend at Tafe..(sorry, i'm terrible with names)

    Admire what you have done and doing, I too am out there trying to let the public know whats going on around them,
    The whole medical system is a disgrace, Past few years, as a patient, I have spent times in places where they have ran out of gloves, toilet paper, and can't 'borrow' from other wards..
    There should not have to be an 'allocation' of funds for hospital services, supplies and equipment. Too many people are in control of these finances as i see it.

    And mistreatment?..Many years ago i was thrown out of the system for standing up for a elderly heart patient that had been tied to her wheelchair, tied to a post..out in the middle of the garden in the w.a sun(as she was a wanderer i was told)and she refused to be fed by a certain aggressive sister,
    I had been feeding this lady (who was not in my charge)in my own time without issues.
    So, after the third tray of food was dropped on the ground, this female patient suffered severe physical abuse. (shall not describe)
    I stepped in and dealt with it very un-professionally, mother superier was not impressed, but I felt better and so did the patient. but it ended my hopeful career back then..

    nice to have found this place,...
    love to give support.
    Take care...

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  48. That last one by little ozzy bloke sounds absolutely false. Jump on another bandwagon

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  49. Well done for speaking up Karen! I am studying my RN through university and was recently on my first 3 week placement at an aged care facility. Within the second week I reported verbal abuse of one of the dementia patients as the other AINs were too scared to say anything. The management said they would "investigate the issue" and the reception I received from the person whom I reported, lets just say was extremely cold and harsh! But I was only there for another week and the treatment she gave me I tried to ignore. I can't begin to imagine how you felt! You should be commended for standing up and not staying silent! I hope that I never have to whitness it again, but if I do, can follow your example.

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  50. Hi there!

    i found your address after reading an article in the courier mail.

    I spoke up as a family member and i was, in the end, sent a letter threatening me with a restraining order and 10 years jail - for complaining about the food! a bit heavy handed and in my opinion and shows what bullies the management of Rose Lodge, Wonthaggi are. Believe me we were not the only family unhappy with the food!

    http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/more-news/wonthaggis-rose-lodge-aged-care-centre-under-fire-over-sloppy-food/story-fn7x8me2-1226092171611

    No wonder no one speaks up, especially the staff or residents - they are too bloomin' scared!

    I spoke up and i got lots of hate mail letters in the local paper. and have a look at the "i support Rose Lodge' face book page. disgraceful!

    I started a facebook page "the unacceptable food served in residential aged care in australia in 2011"

    keep the faith

    with love

    jane seaholme.

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  51. interestingly karen, my mum worked at eventide in the 70's and said the residents were treated like royalty...must have gone truely down hill....you are a brave woman - pity there are not more like you. I had to move mum home from Rose Lodge Wonthaggi - a terrible culture and staff with bad attitude.

    on the whole most homes are a disgrace. to paraphrase lillian jeter "if they can't get the basics right ( like the food) - you can bet there is other stuff going on" i spoke with her early 2011.

    keep the faith. jane

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  52. Karen
    I would like to communicate with you. I have tried to send you an email but it came back to me. If this page is still valid please post your current email address.
    Regards
    Helen.

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  53. Helen
    My email address is: kaz3535@bigpond.com.au
    Regards
    Karen Maree Smith

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  54. Hi.
    i found this beauty whilst looking for docunentation of organisational bulling in the psychiatric system in australia. i have been a discipline specific trained mental health RN for over ten years. i have worked in a great many establishments around australia, and finally resigned my beloved career after several incidents of horizontal violence, bullying, and unfair terminations of contracts. all of which i have documented. I continue to feel extraordinarily disgusted by the bullying and harrassment that health sevices and thier employees get away with. Im certainly very proud that through the years i remained a professional, ethical psch nurse and teacher, but i cannot any longer tollerate the torturous and disgusting conditions that remain private, cleverly, and somewhat obscenely hidden by the health services. i never cease to be amazed from a psychodynamic point of view, how these peole continue to live comfortably whilst knowing the behavours that they demonstrate to patients and other staff are immoral and poisonous. enough said i think. the nursing counsil, unions, and human resourses are useless.

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  55. Angel Karen, CONGRATULATIONS on taking a stand with these horrible people. Our aged care should never ever be mistreated yet they always are! I have seen this with my own eyes on numerous occassions and heard the way staff talk about patients, its disrespectful and disgusting. I witnessed a patient falling off a chair & yelled out to a nurse and instead of rushing to help they sat back laughed and only when the patient had fallen onto the floor did they casually stroll over to assist. Now what they did had been imbedded into my head for many years, they "strapped" the patient to the chair whilst she was protesting saying "No not again, they are too tight". So many of these patients are someone's mother, father, daughter, son . . . .etc, one day it could be one of those nurses sitting all alone with no help from the people who are suppose to be there for them, just imagine them recalling all the horrible abuse they caused and maybe even hoping it would not come back to haunt them. Once again Karen CONGRATULATIONS and wish you all the best. KK From Sydney NSW

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  56. HI Karen,

    i have just watched you on sbs ....... i want to say how much i admire your courage and your determination to make a difference for those who cannot advocate for themselves.
    i have never understood the problem with telling the truth, and am aghast at how much you and other 'whistleblowers' have had to go through in order to speak up.

    my prayers are with you and as ever, with the vulnerable who you work to protect.
    i wish you well
    love and blessings
    amala

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  57. Hi Karen, I too have just watched your story on SBS. I also have blown the whistle on abuse and suffered for it. I admire your perserverance. Thank you for speaking out. Recently I found myself in hospital being treated very badly by nursing staff, it is very very difficult to complain when you are in a vulnerable position needing care. When I did speak up my stuff was packed up and I was huddled off home to an empty house with no assistance. The OT who dropped me at the door and pushed my wheelchair inside left me with the parting words,"SEE HOW YOU LIKE THAT" Vunerable people need people to speak for them. It gives me hope that there are people like you who will stand up for the rights of people who have no power to address their issues.

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  58. Hello Karen Smith,Congratulations on your bravery.It ccertainly wears one down. Enquiry regarding self, if i may;I complained re bullying of staff & consumers by certain staff plus lack of duty of care in work practice,bad behaviours escalated & now i find myself stood down on same/similar charges pending meeting tomorrow morning! What to do? Unfortunately staff member Union rep.with history of above. Sincerly,Anne.

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  59. anonymous, Congratulations karen for your brave stand I too was a whistleblower standing up for elderly patients rights, thought right was on my side and even though I had whistleblower protection I soon realised that nothing can ever protect you from the powerful forces sent in motion by your fellow workers who dont want to become involved. Over a period of two years I got PTSD and had a major depressive episode, ended up on sick leave on antidepressants, the nurse involved with the abuse to the elderly pts was treated like a hero by some of the staff I eventually got my life back in order, Would I do it again?I dont think so although I would always intervene immediately if i ever observed a similar situation The whole affair came to an end when we were told by someone in the Whistleblower unit thAT we were lucky not to have been charged with something ouselves,by that time all the fight had gone out of me, I still feel ashamed that I had a depressive episode over it, thought I would have been stronger

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  60. I watched the Video But I have seen this before in Australia ,Yes our standards have got like a 3rd world country hiring anyone, people that cant speak English. Staff are over worked and under paid but its no excuse for abuse we need to look after our age as they made this country anonymous

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  61. I think the bullies forget one day they will be elderly and nobody knows what is around the corner. They could very well be subjected to the same abuse themselves, particularly if standards are not lifted. Politicians forget this too. Sometimes i think they think their wealth will protect them but it won't necessarily.

    We do need to be kinder to our elderly people they have done a lot for us and if an elderly frail vunerable person is assaulted then yes, then the assaulter and the staff who are essentially complicit in covering up should be put infront of a tribunal or court, and their registration removed because they cannot be trusted to be caring, decent human beings.

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