Alexandra House in debt dispute

ALEXANDRA House is back in the spotlight just months after an armed federal police raid at the Bendigo nursing home.

The Flora Hill facility is part of the Cambridge Aged Care group, which has five centres across Victoria and is directed by Stephen George Snowden.

A metropolitan newspaper published a report yesterday highlighting allegations of unpaid monies to creditors. 

Alexandra House property owners Robyn and Rodney Clarke have been leasing the Bendigo site to Cambridge Aged Care since 2011 and yesterday contacted the Bendigo Advertiser to shed some light on the situation.

“We are the owners of the facility, we don’t operate the business,” Mrs Clarke said.

“Stephen Snowden took over the lease of the property in April/May 2011 and we have been pursuing him through legal channels to get our rent.

“Our monthly rent has not been paid for the last three months.”

Mrs Clarke said they were chasing about $100,000 in unpaid rent from Cambridge Aged Care, which sub-lets the property to approved provider Nepean Hospitals. 

The Bendigo Advertiser contacted Cambridge Aged Care for comment yesterday and, in response, received an email from Nepean Hospitals, the Approved Provider for Alexandra House.

In the email to the Bendigo Advertiser, Nepean Hospital director Neil Gatta said he was aware of the dispute between Mr Snowden and Mr and Mrs Clarke.

“The records Mr Snowden has produced to us show the rent has been paid and the rates paid and further that DOHA and Mr & Mrs Clarke have been provided with this information,” he said.

“We continue to provide proper care to the residents but incorrect reporting of events is a distraction causing distress to our residents, their families and our staff.”

However, Care Beyond Measure managing director Sam Tayeh claims his company is also owed money from Cambridge Aged Care.

“We’ve been chasing them,” he said.

“We’ve been supporting them with personal care assistants and just a few days ago we got just under $7000, which is about half of what we are owed.

“I don’t know where we stand with the rest of the money.”

Elderly residents at Alexandra House were left shaken in September last year after about a dozen Australian Federal Police members stormed the Somerville Street facility.

An Australian Federal Police spokeswoman confirmed at the time that the AFP was assisting the Department of Health and Ageing as part of an ongoing investigation.

It is believed financial documents were collected and staff were interviewed during the raid.

A staff member, who wanted to remain anonymous, spoke to the Bendigo Advertiser shortly after last year’s raid and said the home was plagued by ongoing trouble.

She alleged staff hadn’t been paid properly for some time.

Cambridge Aged Care responded to the raid by stating that it related to “financial irregularities and a person no longer associated with the business”.

The group dismissed claims that its staff had not been paid properly.

Mrs Clarke said that despite the unfolding drama, good staff were employed at Alexandra House.

“The care of residents is quite good,” she said.

“Staff are doing everything they can to care for them... we just hope the Commonwealth will step in and appoint administrators.”

Nepean Hospitals has sent out a letter to Alexandra House residents in response to the allegations.

A copy of the letter was anonymously supplied to the Bendigo Advertiser yesterday.

A copy of the letter supplied to Alexandra House residents and families by Nepean Hospitals:

You are no doubt aware of a story that has appeared in today’s Sunday Herald Sun concerning your facility, Cambridge Aged Care and Mr Snowden.

This story has also appeared in the newspaper’s online edition. 

The journalist contacted Mr Snowden yesterday morning at 9.15am and put to him certain allegations regarding patient care and financial irregularities in the Cambridge Aged Care Group. 

He gave Mr Snowden until 4pm to respond.  At approximately 3.30pm yesterday, after consulting with his legal advisors, we are informed that Mr Snowden sent to the journalist a detailed response which refuted the allegations.

Included in the response were facts that proved that the information provided to the journalist was incorrect and defamatory. Here are the final three paragraphs of that letter: 

“I would respectfully urge before publishing that you acquaint yourself with the original ownership structure, directorships, operational structures and accounts of the Group, before suggesting that I own or control the same or that I have misappropriate monies from the Group. 

“I would also urge that you take into account the distress that you will cause to the residents, their families and staff by not reporting an accurate and balanced account of events with the likely consequences that will follow. 

“If notwithstanding you are determined to publish, I put you on notice that if you publish any information which is defamatory of me or in any way impacts upon or harms the Approved Providers, then I shall instruct solicitors to take action (as no doubt will the directors of the Approved Providers) and use this communication on the question of damages including aggravated damages and malice.’ 

The journalist responded by email to confirm receipt of the response but made no comment in relation to either the content of the letter or the consequences that would follow should the story be published. 

We are meeting today to discuss the matters raised in the article and our response to residents, their families and staff.

I can only urge you refer them to the paragraphs I’ve included above, and also let them know that (a) despite the accusations raised in relation to clinical care, the Department of Health and Ageing has conducted the usual investigations (as they do to all facilities in the industry) and found that the required clinical care standards have been met, and (b) the article contains incorrect information that is defamatory and will be challenged by either ourselves or Mr Snowden through our respective advisers.

Our advisers inform us that it most likely that the journalist in question has what is called “a follow-up piece” which they anticipate will be published in the online edition of the Herald Sun tomorrow.

As the journalist concerned did not take into account Mr Snowden’s denials/responses, it would seem to us that it is unlikely that there is anything that we can do to prevent any further publication which presumably will cast aspersions on your facility or, for that matter, other facilities in the Group. You know yourself that your facility provides proper care for its residents and so do the residents and their families. 

The question has to be asked is: are these matters about Mr Snowden or are they about your facility?

We are independent directors of your facility and Mr Snowden is not involved as key personnel.

Contrary to what the newspaper alleges, Mr Snowden has provided additional funding to your facility by reason of provision of supplies and staffing needs.

I realise how distressing this is for you and everyone concerned.

Although we don’t know who leaked the incorrect information to the journalist, we are pursuing this as a matter of urgency.

The damage that this can cause to the reputation of the Approved Providers is something we take very seriously and which will be considered by our lawyers.

If you wish to provide a copy of this letter to any resident, their family member or members of staff, please feel free to do so.

We will issue further updates as the occasion requires.

Neil Gatta, director

Andy Ceme, director

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