April 14, 2011

AUSTRALIA: Melbourne nursing home contributed to assault death, rules coroner

SYDNEY / The Sydney Morning Herald / Breaking News / AAP / April 14, 2011

By Daniel Fogarty

A Melbourne nursing home contributed to the death of an elderly woman who died after being assaulted by another resident, a coroner has found.

Anderina Sanderson, 89, who had dementia, was assaulted after walking into the room of an 86-year-old male resident at the Central Park Nursing Home in suburban Windsor on April 19, 2007.

She died four days later.

In documenting that assault, staff at the home understated its seriousness and did not notify police, Victorian Coroner Kim Parkinson said in her finding released on Thursday.

"I find that the failure by the facility operator to separate and/or intensively supervise a dementia patient with a known propensity for violence from other residents contributed to the death," she said.

"Had the male resident been moved after the April 16, 2007 event, the assault on Mrs Sanderson would not have occurred.

"Aged persons are entitled to at least the same protections as any other member of the community."
Ms Parkinson said the lack of availability of geriatric-specific mental health beds also contributed to the death.

After the assault Mrs Sanderson was heard calling out.

When staff entered the room they found the man standing over her. He was angry and aggressive towards Mrs Sanderson and also threatened staff.

He walked towards one staff member, who was telling him it was inappropriate to hit Mrs Sanderson, and said: "If you don't shut up I will do to you what I did to her and that will shut you up."

Mrs Sanderson suffered a swollen eye, mouth and jaw and complained of pain in her arm.

She was taken to The Alfred hospital and discharged back to the nursing home the following day.

But four days after the assault her health deteriorated and she died.

Lawyers for Aged Care Services Australia Group, which operates the nursing home, argued during the inquest that because of Mrs Sanderson's age and health it was not possible to relate the assault to causing or contributing to her death.

But Ms Parkinson said the assault hastened Mrs Sanderson's physical decline and that contributed to her death.

The Director of Public Prosecutions did not proceed with charges against the male resident because of his mental state.

Mrs Sanderson's son Ian welcomed the coroner's findings.

He said his mother had been at the facility for five years and was loved by everyone.

"She was never a problem," Mr Sanderson told AAP.

"She never did anyone any harm. Every room looked the same, even I used to get lost there."

Mr Sanderson said after his mother's death he did not even receive a condolence card from the nursing home.

"Not a phone call, absolutely nothing. That reflects the culture within the whole group," he said.

Attempts to contact Aged Care Service Australia Group were unsuccessful.

© 2011 AAP