Bupa aged care at Banora Point. Supplied
Bupa aged care at Banora Point. Supplied

Tweed aged care residents to share in $18.3m payout

RESIDENTS at Banora Point's Bupa facility are part of 20 aged care homes across Australia who paid thousands of dollars a year for services they never received.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission pursued Bupa after instances between April 15 2013 - June 2018 when residents paid for, but did not receive the full benefit of, a package of extra services including amenities such as specialised gardens, fully equipped physiotherapy rooms or talking book libraries.

Other promised extras included travel escorts for outside appointments, hot breakfasts, rooms specifically to assist those living with dementia and individually controlled heating and cooling.

The consumer watchdog's started action against Bupa in April 2019 after the company self-reported the conduct following an internal review in 2018 found some extra services were not being provided to residents as they should have been.

In the Federal Court ruling on Tuesday, Justice Debbie Mortimer ordered Bupa Aged Care Australia Pty Ltd to pay $6 million in penalties for misleading and false representations to aged care residents for extra services the regulator said were not provided in full, if at all.

The company must also compensate all affected current and past residents within 12 months. Bupa started paying affected residents in July 2018, and so far has paid out $14.1 million, estimating the total compensation amount to reach $18.3 million.

Bupa will pay compensation to thousands of residents for extra services either not delivered at all or only partly delivered, dating back to November 2011.

The ACCC investigation found 95 services were either not provided or only partially provided to residents at 20 of Bupa's 75 homes.

Bupa admitted it failed to supply some of these extra services, or only partially supplied them.

In a statement, ACCC chair Rod Sims said Bupa's failure to provide services for which it accepted payment likely lessened the quality of life of the residents.

"We took this case to court despite Bupa self-reporting to the ACCC, because Bupa's conduct impacted substantial numbers of elderly and vulnerable consumers for a significant period of time," he said.

"The offer of these services may have played a part in residents and their families choosing a particular Bupa facility. "These vulnerable residents and their families may not have been aware that these extra services were not being provided, although they were being paid for."

In 2018, an internal Bupa review of the extra services found some were not being provided to residents as they should have been.

In a statement released yesterday, managing director Bupa Villages and Aged Care Australia, Suzanne Dvorak, apologised for the error and the impact on residents and their families.

"Having a family member enter aged care is often a stressful time, and we are deeply sorry for our mistake, which impacted some of our residents and their loved ones," she said.

"As soon as we discovered our error, we voluntarily reported the issue to the ACCC and other regulators, and began the work to ensure we compensated residents fairly and quickly.

"All of our current residents, and most former residents, who were impacted have been compensated with interest.

"We have also strengthened our internal processes and training as a result of this issue. We have since voluntarily revoked 'extra service status' in all of our care homes, which means we no longer charge extra for these services where we offer them."

Since Bupa started contacting impacted residents in July 2018, around 85 per cent of those impacted have been reimbursed with interest or are in the process of receiving final payments.

Bupa confirmed a "small number" of former residents have not yet received reimbursement due to outdated contact details.

Anyone who believes a direct relative may have been impacted and hasn't received a reimbursement is encouraged to contact Bupa on 1300 072 311.

Affected aged care homes include:

  • Bankstown, NSW
  • Banora Point, NSW
  • Berry, NSW
  • Dural, NSW
  • Mosman, NSW
  • Queens Park, NSW
  • Sutherland, NSW
  • Tamworth, NSW
  • Roseville, NSW
  • Willoughby, NSW
  • Berwick, VIC
  • Bonbeach, VIC
  • Caulfield, VIC
  • Coburg, VIC
  • Croydon, VIC
  • Donvale, VIC
  • Greensborough, VIC
  • Glenvale, QLD
  • New Farm, QLD
  • South Hobart, TAS