Contractor demanded $3m from owner night before closure
HELPSTREET demanded close to $3 million after its contract was cancelled at the Earle Haven nursing home - half of which was to be paid within 24 hours.
Speaking from video link from the UK to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety today, HelpStreet Global CEO Kristofer Andrew Bunker confirmed he had demanded the money via email on the night before his company removed furniture from the Nerang facility on July 11, forcing 71 residents out of home.
Mr Bunker sent an email to Earle Haven owner Arthur Miller on July 10 requesting $2.7 million be paid to resolve the dispute between HelpStreet and Mr Miller's PeopleCare.
The email was sent two days after PeopleCare gave notice that it would cancel HelpStreet's contract on August 9.
The contract was cancelled following alleged concerns about the management of the facility.
"You wanted half of the funds by midday the following day didn't you?," counsel assisting Paul Bolster asked Mr Bunker. "You wanted a quarter by 30th of July. You wanted another quarter by the 30th of July."
"You wanted 50 per cent by 12pm tomorrow, you wanted confirmation by 11.59 that night."
Mr Bunker said the payment would be seen as "one solution of breach of contract".
In an email Mr Bunker in reply at 10.15am on July 11, Mr Miller's lawyer said PeopleCare would pay staff until the July 30 and denied HelpStreet was entitled to any amount by way of compensation for the early termination of the licence agreement.
The substance of the PeopleCare offer was not communicated to staff, according to Mr Bunker.
At 1.30pm that afternoon paramedics were called over concerns for patients after staff were allegedly told by Mr Bunker they no longer had a job.
The 71 frail and elderly residents were removed from the facility and have not been allowed to return home.
"The conversation with the staff was one following Mr Miller, we said we were uncertain about the future and we would communicate with PeopleCare or words to that effect," Mr Bunker said.
Mr Bunker said he believed his request calling for $2.7 million was fair.
"I believe it was a fair claim in light of the situation we were facing.
"I was prepared to negotiate down which is why we met with him to discuss that."
Mr Bunker also contended he did not decide to leave the facility but alleged he was instead told to leave verbally by a PeopleCare consultant.
"I would suggest to you incorrect for a couple of reasons," Mr Paul Bolster QC said.
"She (the employee) did not arrive at the facility until 3.30pm.
"There is evidence before the commission by at least 12.10 there was a removalist van on site and people from the removalist company removing your goods and your property from the facility."
Mr Bunker responded: "She only asked us to vacate after she arrived that is correct."
Mr Bunker's communication at the commission then dropped out repeatedly.
Mr Bunker said he was also unsure if he had disclosed the fact he was disqualified from managing a company by ASIC in 2018 to his HelpStreet management team at Earle Haven.
"Umm, it is unknown, I am not sure."
"Mr Miller was aware of I think at the time of the pending disqualification, it was brought up at the start of our tenure with PeopleCare."
According to the global CEO the removal of servers containing patient records was made the day before the evacuation.
"The servers were not solely my direction, it was a group decision. Our management team decided that was best course of action.
"To upgrade the servers to a secure location."
Mr Bunker said he was assured there were hard copies on site.