Management of a Coraki nursing home have hit back at media reports that short-staffing was to blame for the death of a 91-year-old woman who suffocated during the night shift in 2010.
ABC’s 7.30 program last night reported on a coronial inquest into the death of Martha McKee, a high-care resident of the Mid Richmond Aged Care Facility, who died of asphyxiation on the night of July 28 2010. There were just two staff caring for 45 frail, elderly residents on the night of her death, the coroner found.
One, Patricia Sawtell, was a 20-year-old carer on her first night duty; the other, Judith Robson, was a carer whose nurse registration had lapsed. The coroner, Magistrate Robyn Denes, found ‘Ms Robson was effectively on her own caring for 45 residents’.
Ms McKee had only celebrated her 91st birthday with her family three days before, and her daughter told 7.30, ‘it was just another milestone in a long and happy life’. No-one at the party thought it would be the last time they saw her alive.
But some time in the night of 28 July Ms McKee fell out of bed, where she had been seen at 2.50am. She was found on the floor, by the two staff on duty, where she had fallen at 5am.
The carers assumed she was dead and called their supervisor. But Ms McKee may have been alive, the coroner found, and may have been able to be revived had the carers responded immediately.
Baptist Community Services, which operates the facility, said in a statement that staffing levels at the time were ‘appropriate’ and the centre has since been reaccredited.
But NSW Nurses Association spokesperson Brett Holmes said that the low staffing levels continue to be an issue in nursing homes like this one.
‘The size of the facilities in rural areas often means that they have fairly minimal staffing,’ he told ABC radio this morning. ‘And, as in this case, a period of time [may] elapse before they are able to… check on everyone.’