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'Disgraceful': Cat Snapped Eating Residents' Food At Aged Care Facility

Photos have emerged of a cat appearing to eat a meal about to be served to residents at a Victorian aged care facility.

Ivan Juco Rukavina, whose 85-year-old mother has been a resident of St Basil's Homes for the Aged for two years, was shocked and disgusted to witness a tabby cat eating food from a serving trolley.

"This is disgraceful," he told 10 daily.

"The cat tops it all off."

aged care cat
Rukavina said the cat was clearly eating the food. Photo: Supplied.

He and his wife were visiting his mother in her room on Sunday afternoon, as they do every week.

His wife went into the hallway to grab a plastic cup, she spotted the cat. She ran back in to tell her husband there was a cat eating food from a trolley filled with meals for residents.

Rukavina went outside to take a photo, before then filming the incident. He said the cat was probably eating the food for "at least" 30 to 40 seconds. When he began to film, an employee shooed away the cat, which the facility claimed was a therapy cat for residents.

It is not known if that meal was then served to a resident.

It was the latest in a series of incidents which have prompted Rukavina to complain to both the Royal Commission into Aged Care, and the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.

Earlier the same day, Rukavina claimed he arrived at the facility to find his mother's clothes covered in faeces. Photos seen by 10 daily show his mother, who has dementia, with brown stains near her neck, on her two tops and jumper.

Rukavina's mother clearly has brown stains on her clothes. Photo: Supplied.

Rukavina said when he complained to staff about the dirty clothes, an employee told him had he checked on his mother just 15 minutes prior. Rukavina believes his mother had been sitting in a dirty nappy for hours, giving her a rash.

"Sometimes we've got to check if the stool's dry, to see if they're looking after her or neglecting her," Rukavina said.

In another incident from October year, Rukavina checked his mother's teeth and found rotten tooth roots. He complained to Aged Care Victoria that same day, and the following day, a dentist arrived and removed six decayed tooth roots.

"How do you miss six rotten teeth?" Rukavina asked 10 daily.

He also said his mother suffered from a rash for six months, which he suspects may have been caused by a cat allergy. Photos seen by 10 daily show scabs on his mother's arms and legs.

Rukavina's mother, whom 10 daily has chosen not to name, celebrating her 85th birthday with her two grandchildren. Photo: Supplied.

In a letter to staff members dated July 15, 2019, Vicky Kos -- identified on LinkedIn as the Director of Nursing at the facility -- said complaints concerning the cat eating food and Rukavina's mother being dirty are "totally unacceptable and will not be tolerated".

"Any staff members, nursing or kitchen, found not following policy and procedures or in any bridge (sic) or care will be heavily reprimanded what will possibly lead to termination of employment," she said.

She refers to Rukavina's reports as a cat "sniffing residents' food" and his mother as being "dressed in a top with visible brown spots".

The letter reminds employees that "food needs to be covered at all times in all sections and at each meal time". However, Rukavina said he has never seen meals covered in the two years he has been visiting his mother weekly.

"Poor practise will not be tolerated and once again staff observed with any bridge (sic) in care, staff will face serious consequence's (sic)," Kos's letter ends.

A portion of the letter from Vicky Cos to all staff. Photo: Supplied.

In a statement from St. Basil's, the facility said it takes matters of resident care "extremely seriously".

St Basil's said that management reviewed CCTV footage, and will be terminating three staff members involved.

"So far two staff members have already been terminated and a third staff member who has not returned to duty yet is being terminated today," a statement on Wednesday said.

St. Basil's confirmed the cat is a therapy pet for residents.

"It was not in the food area as suggested, but in the general dining / lounge room and staff did not follow standing procedures which require the pet to be put outside before serving any meal. All staff have been reminded to observe these procedures," the statement said.

Rukavina suspects his mother may be allergic to the cat. Photo: 10 daily.

However, Rukavina is unsatisfied with the way management has handled his complaints, telling 10 daily the ongoing level of care his mother has received is neglectful.

Following the incident on Sunday, he complained to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality, which is currently open to submissions and is expected to provide an interim report by October 31.

In his complaint, Rukavina said the neglect has caused "a major amount of stress" to his family.

"When I see my mum she is always filthy and foul smelling," he wrote.

The latest audit of St Basil's, by the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission 2016, found the facility met all 44 of the expected outcomes for accreditation status. It is credited for another four months, until November 15.

Contact the author: abrucesmith@networkten.com.au