One of the country's most prestigious nursing homes, Lulworth House, is under investigation over serious allegations of neglect.
The Elizabeth Bay facility has long been home to Sydney's elderly elite, with residents including the former prime minister Gough Whitlam, the former NSW premier Neville Wran, the former chancellor of the University of Sydney Dame Leonie Kramer and the entertainer Jeanne Little.
The Department of Health and Ageing confirmed that the Aged Care Complaints Scheme is investigating concerns raised by three parties whose relatives died between June and August. A separate complaint had also been made to the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission.
Mark Compton, the chief executive of St Luke's Care, which owns the home, said staff were co-operating with the Aged Care Complaints Scheme investigation, which was still in progress.
The complaints relate to three elderly residents, whose relatives say they chose Lulworth House because of its excellent reputation, with its marketing material citing high levels of comfort and luxury. Lulworth House is one of the most expensive aged care facilities in the country, with residents paying up to $220 a day for care.
''Everybody goes there because it's Lulworth and it's supposed to be good,'' one complainant said. ''I thought the same. But it's not what it's made out to be, I can tell you.''
In one case, a 93-year-old woman was admitted to the home in January with her doctor and carer noting she was well nourished and not suffering any infections.
After four months at Lulworth House, she was admitted to St Vincent's Hospital, where doctors found she was malnourished, anaemic and suffering from sepsis caused by an infected toe that had not been treated. She died on June 3.
Her son believes staff at Lulworth either failed to notice or treat the infection and did not document it as required. In his complaint, he also raises concerns that staff at Lulworth did not manage a urinary tract infection properly, mixed up her urine sample with another resident's, gave his mother an incorrect dose of morphine and failed to realise when her oxygen tank was empty and were unsure how to replace it.
He also raised concerns that his mother's distress and anxiety were almost always treated with medication rather than adequate diversional therapy delivered by qualified staff.
In another case, an 82-year-old man developed a series of infections, including double pneumonia, after being admitted to Lulworth in April.
His widow, who spent five hours a day with her husband at the home, claims her concerns about his illness and weight loss were dismissed by staff, who resisted transferring him to hospital. He was finally transferred to St Vincent's Hospital, where he died on August 16.
''I have never been more heart broken,'' she said. ''We spent 53 years together. He was a wonderful, honourable man. To die like that was just horrific.''
In the third case, a 98-year-old woman who had been a resident since 2010, developed ulceration on her feet and her family was not informed.
Her daughter believes her mother also became malnourished, her weight dropping from 56 kilograms to 49 kilograms over four weeks. Her complaint also raises concerns about inadequate medical care when the woman's family asked for her to be transferred to St Vincent's Hospital. The woman died on June 25.
All three complainants, who do not wish to be identified, have also raised questions about staff numbers at Lulworth, noting that in the afternoons there are very few assistants in nursing available to help feed and toilet about 154 residents. They have also taken issue with lack of staff supervision by registered nurses on duty.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Ageing said the allegations made by the three relatives were the only complaints that had been made against the home in the past 12 months which the Aged Care Complaints Scheme was addressing. The complaints were being treated seriously.
St Luke's Care, a not-for-profit group, has been running Lulworth House as an aged care home for 29 years. Mr Compton said Lulworth House had never received a sanction or notice of non-compliance.
''We have co-operated fully and completely with the investigation,'' he said. ''We have had department officers here and we have provided them with all the information they have requested.
''To date, they have been very pleased with our co-operation and they have not raised any red flags with us. There is no evidence that the standard of care has declined.''
He denied that residents were malnourished and said staff-to-resident ratios fulfilled care needs.
''We don't operate on a formula but we operate on a ratio to care,'' he said. ''We give nursing care as required by the residents and their particular circumstances at the time.''
He said surveys of residents and their families repeatedly showed that they were satisfied with the level of care.
A spokeswoman for the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission declined to comment.