Disability advocates have supported calls for a full independent investigation into a “terrible” case of alleged neglect in a government-run care facility in Adelaide.
Hampstead Rehabilitation Center. Photo: Tony Lewis / InDaily
InDaily announced yesterday that the Department of Human Services has opened an investigation after a man on temporary housing service at the Hampstead Rehabilitation Center was hospitalized in a state of “neglect”.
Staff at the Northfield facility called an ambulance on June 3 when they noticed the man’s deteriorating condition and paramedics took him to the Royal Adelaide Hospital, where he is still being treated.
The case has been reported to the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission, which has confirmed that it is “investigating” the matter, but there are concerns that it has no authority to properly investigate a government entity.
Lawyers support state opposition demands for a full independent investigation.
Disability Rights Advocacy Service spokeswoman Angela Duigan said it would help ensure “full disclosure” in order to get to the bottom of the errors.
“It’s just awful, especially after the Ann Marie Smith affair, you just can’t believe it’s happening in an institution like Hampstead,” Duigan told InDaily.
“There are still cases where this can happen in the life of people with disabilities, that they are neglected.”
InDaily is known to have emergency workers and several clinicians from the Royal Adelaide Hospital filed complaints about the man’s condition.
A doctor told management that concerns were about “basic hygiene and care, including wound care”.
The Department of Human Services operates the facility in Hampstead – called Transition to Home – and has launched an investigation.
“We take allegations of care concerns very seriously and have initiated an investigation into the services for this customer,” said a spokesman.
The man is believed to have received wound care from a registered NDIS provider and visits from a family doctor during his stay at the facility.
“Doctors and Ambos must have been really serious about reporting this,” Duigan said.
“It’s about basic hygiene and care and wound care. It’s just so worrying.
“Our organization would have hoped that the spotlight on the Ann Marie Smith case had an impact on the care of the people, especially in government institutions.”
Ann Marie Smith died last April at the Royal Adelaide Hospital of severe septic shock and multiple organ failure.
It is alleged that the 54-year-old, who suffered from cerebral palsy, sat on a cane chair in the living room of her home for almost a year in lazy conditions.
Her supervisor Rosemary Maione has been charged with manslaughter.
The man’s 24-bed Transition to Home program opened in March last year at the start of the pandemic in Hampstead to accommodate people with disabilities who have been discharged from hospital and are awaiting permanent placement.
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SA Health owns the Hampstead Rehabilitation Center, but the Transition to Home program is administered by the Department of Human Services.
Citizen Advocacy South Australia’s program manager Rosey Olbrycht said the division move added complexity to the case.
“This is kind of a wilderness between health and disability where it is really difficult to know who is actually responsible,” said Olbrycht.
She said the money eventually stopped with Minister of Human Services Michelle Lensink as her department runs the facility.
“These will be very, very vulnerable people when they are in the health system and have a disability,” she said.
“Here we are really fighting in the entire area of disability. How can we best support these people without limiting their lives? How do we give them access to the good things in life and at the same time ensure their safety? “
Olbrycht said the man’s case sounded “appalling”.
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“I hope this man is doing well, getting shelter, overcoming his health problems quickly, and getting good support,” she said.
“We know Ann Marie Smith’s situation was really dire. It’s not the first time this has happened. And unfortunately it won’t be the last time. “
Olbrycht “absolutely” supported demands for an independent investigation.
“This man deserves his story told and it needs to be clarified so that there is less chance of it happening again,” she said.
“What caused this situation? Is there anything that can be done to prevent this from happening in the future? Each of these incidents must be investigated. “
A spokesman for the Department of Human Services said, “In accordance with the Department’s policies and procedures for incident management, the relevant authorities, including the Minister of Human Services, have been notified of the allegation of nursing problems.”
A spokeswoman for the Minister for Human Services Michelle Lensink said “the Minister has been notified of this issue in accordance with the department’s incident management process”.
“Allegations of care concerns are being taken very seriously and the department has launched an investigation into the services offered to this customer,” the spokesman said.
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