The dramatic shutdown of a Gold Coast nursing home shows why "opaque" subcontracting arrangements must be banned in aged care, the Queensland Nurses Union says.
The union is demanding changes after 70 high-care residents were evacuated from the Earle Haven Retirement Village amid a dispute between its owner and a subcontractor tasked with operating its aged-care wing.
QNU secretary Beth Mohle says members agree that "ridiculously" complex subcontracting arrangements that can threaten the care of the elderly have no place in the sector.
"Transparency and accountability is woefully inadequate in the aged care sector, but this just adds to it," she says.
HelpStreet, which was contracted to run the home, claims it hasn't been paid by People Care, which owns the facility.
Ms Mohle said the arrangement made it difficult to uncover the truth.
"We think it calls into question that subcontracting should not be allowed in aged care.
"How can you hold people to account when you've got ridiculously complex arrangements."
It has also been revealed that on the day of the shutdown, only one registered nurse had been rostered on to care for 68 vulnerable patients.
"This is not abnormal in Australian private aged care. It's not even illegal in Australia," she added.
"We have repeatedly called on the federal government to stop the pain, suffering and premature deaths of elderly Australians due to understaffing and the dangerous under regulation of Australian private aged care."
"The federal government has the power to make this change. But they have repeatedly refused to do so."
A week after the shutdown, the union says it still does not know how much money the 80 staff are owed, but say it could be thousands of dollars.
The QNU has demanded a full investigation to determine if there were any breaches of Queensland's criminal laws, or the federal Aged Care Act.
"We have to have that question answered. Have any criminal offences been committed so that people can be charged?" Ms Mohle said.
It is also calling on the federal government to "vigorously pursue" both the owner and the contractor to ensure monies owed to residents, families and staff is paid.
Federal Minister for Aged Care Richard Colbeck has not responded to calls for a one-off hardship payment to staff who are out of pocket.
Queensland police are investigating whether any criminal offences have been committed.
Australian Associated Press