Photo: Stock
Photo: Stock

Nursing home residents ignored, ‘left in faeces’

ELDERLY residents died after falls in two nursing homes, Queensland's Coroner has revealed.

In a newly published decision, Coroner James McDougall found that 89-year-old George Fenech died of a heart attack after being taken to hospital with a bleeding head and covered in bruises from an "unwitnessed fall'' at TriCare Nursing Home in Biggera Waters on the Gold Coast in November 2017.

The report says the Federal Government's Aged Care Complaints Commission fielded four complaints about TriCare in 2016 and 2017, including one from Mr Fenech's daughter Marea Fenech.

"The complaints revealed similar themes in relation to falls resulting in severe injuries, consultation and communication, clinical assessment and health and personal care,'' the Coroner's report says.

The complaints commission found it was likely Mr Fenech had to wait for help to go to the toilet on "multiple occasions'', and that TriCare had "failed to investigate, escalate or respond" to his failing health "in a reasonable manner''.

The Tricare aged care home at Biggera Waters
The Tricare aged care home at Biggera Waters

Ms Fenech told the Coroner that her father had complained that night staff at TriCare were "reluctant, too busy, not caring, not interested in taking him to the bathroom'' and he had to wait up to half an hour for assistance.

She said her father had been left on a veranda in the heat at least three times - with ants biting his feet.

"He was not checked on by staff and had to send a text message to his daughter to contact staff at TriCare to bring him inside,'' the Coroner's report says.

The Coroner found that it was likely staff did not attend to Mr Fenech "in a timely manner to allow for his toileting needs'', forcing him to get out of bed himself despite being a "high falls risk resident''.

But he concluded that TriCare had taken action to prevent similar deaths in the future.

TriCare told the Coroner it had replaced its call bells and staff now responded in two minutes, on average.

Mr McDougall also found that an 86-year-old woman had died of a brain haemorrhage after falling out of bed and hitting her head during a sponge bath at the Blue Care Yurana Aged Care home in Springwood in January 2016.

The woman's son, who is a nurse, told the Coroner that his mother was "frequently left in faeces'' and "left in bed all day''.

Coroner James McDougall has reported on fatal falls in nursing homes. Picture: Adam Head
Coroner James McDougall has reported on fatal falls in nursing homes. Picture: Adam Head

A Blue Care executive, who was not named in the report, told the Coroner that staff had been given extra training and reminded to "pause for three seconds before performing a task and to think about what they are doing and how to do it properly".'

Uniting Care, which operates Blue Care, yesterday refused to comment for privacy reasons.

A Coroners Court spokeswoman confirmed reviews into "a number of deaths" at the Fairfield Carinity Aged Care Facility in Townsville were continuing.

"Due to the nature of the circumstances surrounding the deaths, combined with the number of deaths being examined, the coronial investigation is complex and the material to be reviewed, particularly medical records, is voluminous," she said.

"A decision as to whether or not an inquest will be conducted will be determined by the Northern Coroner once all material has been reviewed and investigations have been completed. The families of the deceased will be notified of the inquest decision in the first instance."