The kero bath story - continued
 No new residents will be funded at the home for six months and the government has imposed daily inspections to ensure existing residents receive proper care.
  “To me it was quite shocking and quire unacceptable,’’ Mrs Bishop told ABC radio after refusing to confirm the incident when earlier approached with the details by the Herald Sun.
  “My concern is for the residents, for their care. And quite frankly, the idea that you can in this day and age bathe people who are said to have scabies in a bath containing 30mm of kerosene is just beyond belief.
  “There is evidence that the audit has found that there were blisters that resulted from the bath, that there were people who were put into that bath who had wounds that were taped.
  “It read like something that was decades out of date.’’ A registered nurse at the home has told INSIGHT residents were made bathe for 10 minutes.
  They were towel-dried but not rinsed with fresh water before being returned to their beds with the same linen, the nurse said.
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 The nurse said a number of residents later complained of feeling sick and by the next day seven had come out in severe blisters.
  “You should have seen the blisters … it was disgusting, it was cruel,’’ the nurse said.
  “The Health Department knew about it on the 17th of January but did nothing.’’  INSIGHT was told one woman smelled kerosene and refused to get in, but she was told the smell was coming from outside.
  The Department of Health and Aged Care is investigating the complaints.
 Up to seven staff at the home complained about the incident to the department on January 17, but it was a month before officials inspected the home.
  One nurse was so concerned she called a poisons information centre at a major public hospital and was told such use of kerosene could be dangerous.
  The nurse described the practice, allegedly ordered by a nursing supervisor at the home, as barbaric, while the Australian Medical Association said kerosene for skin problems was used perhaps 50 years ago.
The registered nurse, who did not want to identified for fear of being sacked by the home, said nurses rostered on at the home on the weekend of January 15 and 16 refused to carry out the orders.
 “These people are very old and fragile,’’ she said. “Their skin is like paper. A lot of them have pressure sores, peg-feeds and ulcers.’’
  Peg-feeds are tubes surgically inserted into the stomach to assist feeding, and are usually closed when a resident is not being fed or bathed.
  But the nurse said she and her colleagues feared the feeds were not properly closed as the residents, many of whom have dementia, were placed in the bath topped with a film of kerosene for about 10 minutes each.
  The Herald Sun reported last Friday that health department officials paid a surprise visit to the home a month after the complaint were made.
  The home was rated “unacceptable’’ following an assessment by the government’s Aged Care Standards and Accreditation Agency last July.
 The supervisor ordered the baths because she feared residents had scabies, a skin mite that causes irritation, although there was no diagnosis.
  The nurse said night staff were asked to begin the baths on Saturday, January 15.
  When all registered nurses refused, she said non-medically-qualified personal care attendants employed were ordered to begin the bathing and some were told they would be sacked if they refused.
  The nurse alleged attempts were made to alter records that indicated injuries were caused by the kerosene baths and had told staff not to tell anyone of the baths.
  Nurses arriving for the day shift at the home on Monday, January 17, called in a doctor when blisters were discovered on patients and about seven made complaints to the Department of Health and Aged Care.
  John Irving, a trustee of the board of Illawong Retirement Village, which runs Riverside Nursing Home, declined to comment on the incident.
  He replied “no comment’’ when asked by the Herald Sun yesterday why the residents were given kerosene baths and whether the nursing supervisor was still employed at the home.
Opposition aged care spokesman Senator Chris Evans said the incident showed a dire need for surprise inspections.
  “Mrs Bishop’s own agency identified numerous concerns about the care of residents in this nursing home in July last year, yet the minister only sent officials into the home when pressured by the media,’’ he said.
  A spokeswoman for the Australian Nursing Federation’s Victorian branch said it was clear the government’s reforms were not working when complaints like this were not acted upon for weeks.
  “In situations like nursing homes we have residents who are quite vulnerable,’’ she said.
  “There needs to be someone that staff, residents and relatives can report urgent issue to and know there will be immediate action taken.’’
  Executive director of Catholic Health Australia, Francis Sullivan, said the incident raised the issue of the human rights of nursing home residents.
  “We really have to get to the bottom of this. The government must fix this. This is a human rights issue.’’