ONE former Stockton Centre resident has died and another is in hospital with serious health issues just weeks after moving into their new group home in suburban Stockton.
The situation is causing controversy within the disability community, with some observers fearing it bears out concerns about the quality of care that people will receive once they move out of the Stockton Centre.
But others say that the problems facing the two women could have come about at any time, and that their move into the group home had no bearing on their conditions.
The Newcastle Herald has been unable to contact family of the woman who died after moving into the home, but has spoken with the father of the other woman, Sandra Trousdale, who is now in the Calvary Mater Newcastle.
Donald Trousdale, who served as a suburban GP in Stockton for some 40 years, said his daughter had become unwell after moving from the Stockton Centre and was admitted to the Mater about a week ago.
Sources say both women became dehydrated in the group home and Dr Trousdale confirmed there had been problems feeding his daughter. He had not wanted the Stockton Centre to close but it would “jumping to conclusions” to link his daughter’s decline with her move to the group home.
Dr Trousdale said his daughter, aged 51, had been at Stockton for 46 years. She was “bedfast and extremely handicapped” and had “episodes of not eating and drinking”.
He said the staff at the Stockton Centre were highly specialised and skilled at dealing with such situations.
“I really don’t know about this time,” Dr Trousdale said. “It might have lasted a bit longer. Maybe she couldn’t be managed at the house and so they could manage her better in the hospital.”
He said staff from the Stockton Centre had been called to the group home to help with the situation.
The NSW Department of Family and Community Services did not answer the Herald’s questions about the situation, saying the death of the resident had been referred to the NSW Ombudsman, meaning the department could not comment further. The department said its staff “were saddened to hear about” the woman’s death and “offer their condolences to her family at this time”.
The department had notified the ombudsman and provided it with “full and unrestricted access to relevant records relating to reviewable deaths in accordance with the relevant legislation”.
The opposition’s spokesperson on disability services, Sophie Cotsis, said the “government must conduct a thorough and transparent investigation” into what happened earlier this month at the group home.
“Concerns have been raised about people being transferred from the Stockton Centre to group homes not receiving the same level of medical and specialist care,” Ms Cotsis said.
“The government gave a commitment and guarantee to the public and to Labor MP's, that all medical and specialists assistance would continue to be provided to people being transferred from the Stockton Centre.”
Port Stephens MP Kate Washington said the “devastating” events at the Stockton group home seemed to reinforce “the concerns of families, loved ones, professionals and advocates that the government has been dismissing”. Ms Washington said the government needed to do more than provide “rhetoric and reassurances”.