She said her ex-husband left for 17 days after a 28-day stay, and said her staff resigned because of unpaid wages. DayHab employees owe more than $50,000 in leave and entitlements.
Hegwein, who received no refund, criticized the lack of regulation of the private rehabilitation sector.
“If you’re in real estate, you need to be licensed,” she said. “When you build a house, you need building inspectors. You buy a dog, the dog must be registered. There is nothing about these people. Anyone can set up just like that.”
A former DayHab employee, who declined to be named out of concerns it would disadvantage him professionally, said he joined DayHab in 2017 after completing a six-month course.
He was then in his mid-twenties and had been sober for a year after his own alcohol problem. Despite his inexperience, he was often the only worker at night in a house full of eight customers, many of whom had complex needs.
“The culture was horrible,” he said. “It was like enforcing the rules as best you could with minimal staffing. There was no supervision, no policies or procedures.”
However, the former employee added that the rehab has successfully helped some people with less complex problems overcome their addiction.
Defending his standards, Hall said all of his clinical staff had relevant qualifications and that patients were assessed by a psychiatrist and had access to a GP.
He said he had several accreditations since it opened in 2013, and a private hospital license as of 2018, under close supervision. Hall welcomed further regulation of the industry.
Hall blamed Victoria’s COVID-19 lockdowns for his company’s failure, but Cremin cited poor financial control and COVID-19 as the reasons.
Creditors, including employees and cleaners, owe $2,198,088.
Health Complaints Commissioner Karen Cusack recommended in her report that the state government regulates the sector, including a mandatory licensing system and qualification standards for consultants.
But 16 months later, the state government is still considering the issues revealed in the investigation, a spokesman said.
Janet Davidson was in ill health from 30 years of alcoholism when she cashed out her pension to pay $12,000 for a 28-day stay on DayHab in 2015.
The 58-year-old former social worker, who has had nothing but good experiences in the public system, said the care was subpar and many of the staff were young, underqualified and unprofessional.
“They looked like they were hired straight from AA” [self-help group Alcoholics Anonymous],” she said. “You can tell they were out of their depths.”
After Davidson completed the program, she was dropped off at the local mall where there were several bottle shops, and she immediately bought and drank alcohol.
She said she took responsibility for her relapse, but DayHab hadn’t given her the help she had promised. “I just felt stupid, being ripped off like that.”
The private rehabilitation sector has grown significantly in recent years due to skyrocketing demand that cannot be met in the public sector.
According to the Victoria Alcohol and Drug Association, the waiting list for a public rehab bed has nearly doubled during the pandemic from 230 people in September 2020 to 452 in December last year. Public rehabilitation center Windana reports waiting times of up to six months.
Chief executive Sam Biondo said the government urgently needs to regulate the private sector.
“Private operators are settling in to take advantage of this situation,” he said.
Acting Commissioner for Health Complaints Dorota Siarkiewicz said implementing the report’s recommendations would help maintain quality and safety standards in the sector.
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