THE NSW Ombudsman has found “significant problems” with the care of two former Stockton Centre residents who died within two weeks of moving into a nearby group home early last year.
The Newcastle Herald reported the deaths – and the hospitalisation of a third person – in April and May last year, when concerns were raised about the adequacy of care for those being moved out of the Stockton Centre as its closure began.
Disability Services Minister Ray Williams defended the system at the time, but will face fresh pressure tomorrow when he is questioned at budget estimates by Labor and Greens MPs armed with Friday’s ombudsman’s report.
The 2014-17 report into “reviewable deaths” of people with disability in residential care, found that 42 of the 494 deaths, or 8.5 per cent, should be classed as “preventable”.
On the sector in general, the report said: “We found that disability support staff did not consistently call for emergency help as early as possible when they were concerned or had any questions about the seriousness of the person’s presenting condition,” the report said.
“In some matters, it was clear that the person was significantly unwell but staff did not seek urgent medical assistance.”
On the Stockton case study, the ombudsman found “a range of significant problems” with the care of the people before and after they were moved.
Despite the “known complex health needs” of the new residents, group home staff did not receive “adequate practical training” to handle them.
“We found that there were delays in the actions of staff to get medical assistance in response to indicators of critical illness for the three residents,” the report says.
“For each of the residents, it was evident that, although staff recorded observations that were outside the normal range for the individual, this did not prompt them to obtain urgent medical assistance.”
Port Stephens MP Kate Washington said the report made tragic and appalling reading.
“On this minister's watch, two former residents of the Stockton Centre died because there were 'inadequate arrangements in place to support a successful and safe transition’,” Ms Washington said.
Responding, Mr Williams he had referred the deaths to the ombudsman “for independent review, and to provide full and unrestricted access to relevant records”.
“I take all incidents of client safety and welfare very seriously,” Mr Williams said.
“That is why the Department of Family and Community Services continues to implement an awareness campaign to increase staff knowledge and equip staff with the skills needed to respond to serious incidents”.
“The decision to redevelop the Stockton Centre and all large residential centres has had bipartisan support since 1998 and predates the NDIS by almost 15 years.”
HOW THE STOCKTON TRAGEDY UNFOLDED