The board of Lyndoch Living is facing new calls for its removal as a letter from more than a dozen Warrnambool GPs reveals former staff are suffering workplace-related psychological trauma.
The letter, signed by GPs from at least three clinics across Warrnambool, was emailed to the Lyndoch Living board on Tuesday and expresses "serious" concerns about staff mental health and the flow-on effects for resident care.
"We are aware that a large number of experienced staff, in both clinical and non-clinical areas have resigned and left Lyndoch in the last number of months. This includes several experienced unit managers and the previous Director of Nursing," the letter said.
In the letter, the GPs said they were "very concerned about the effects of this on the existing residents and remaining staff but also with significant concerns about detrimental health issues that have arisen in some of the staff members that have left".
"We are aware that a number of these ex-staff members have attended GPs for issues relating to their previous workplace experience."
A former senior Lyndoch staff member told The Standard many of the affected staff members required medication to treat the psychological "issues".
Member for South West Coast Roma Britnell responded to the revelations, calling for the board "to step aside or be removed" and an administrator appointed. Ms Britnell said while the absence of chief executive Doreen Power and appointment of interim CEO Jamie Brennan were "a positive step", the organisation needed "a complete reset".
"An administrator would help support the interim CEO as well as overseeing the process of installing a new board," she said. The call to remove the board echoes a petition launched in the state parliament in July, which had around 2000 signatures at time of writing.
Ms Britnell said she urged the federal government and Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission "to do everything in their power to start the process of removing the board and appoint an administrator to oversee the change our community needs".
The Standard contacted both the ACQSC and the relevant federal ministers and confirmed neither had the power to remove the Lyndoch Living board.
A spokesman said the ACQSC could only take action on "operational" matters.
"This includes powers to require the provider to agree to a set of very specific requirements within set timeframes; suspend the payment of government subsidy for new residents at a service; shorten a service's accreditation period; or, in cases of severe ongoing and wilful non-compliance, to revoke approved provider status, making the provider ineligible to continue to provide care to government subsidised consumers at their service," the spokesman said.
However, as a registered charity, Lyndoch Living is regulated by the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission, which does have the power to remove board members.
A spokeswoman said the ACNC could not comment on specific charities, but the commission had "the power to suspend or remove a responsible person, for example a member of a charity's board or committee".
If the ACNC did remove the Lyndoch board, it would be unprecedented. The commission has never removed a "responsible person" since it was founded in 2012.
The Standard sent a number of questions to the Lyndoch Living board, including what had been done to address allegations of bullying and harassment since early 2020, and what action would be taken in response to the GP letter.
A spokesperson said Lyndoch Living's focus was "to ensure the safety and care of our residents and to support our staff".
"We are not going to go into detail about any individual or discuss the past, rather focus on this important and pressing work."
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