Inquest finds cleaner, nurse alone

THE Coronial inquest into the death of a woman at Coraki's Mid Richmond Aged Care facility has found a cleaner and a nurse whose registration had lapsed were caring for 45 residents the night of the death.

Coroner R Denes found 91-year-old Martha McKee died of asphyxiation after she fell out of bed on the night of July 28, 2010, and her neck was trapped by a bed pole designed to pull herself up out of bed.

Well known around the Northern Rivers as Bub, Mrs McKee's family last saw her when they went to the aged care facility to celebrate her 91st birthday with her.

A high-care resident at the facility, Mrs McKee was suffering from dementia and had very little mobility.

Ms Denes found Judith Robson, a carer whose registration as an enrolled nurse had lapsed, was effectively caring for the 45 residents on her own as her co worker, 20-year-old Patricia Sewell, was on her first night shift on the night.

In a statement to police, Ms Robson said she and Ms Sewell last checked on Mrs McKee at 2.20am when they spoke to her.

Mrs McKee was found at 5am by Ms Robson and Ms Sewell lying on the floor of her room with her neck trapped by the bed pole.

The inquest heard the two staff didn't check Mrs McKee for signs of life, but closed the door and phoned their supervisor.

"I saw Martha and saw she was wax-work white. I turned the light on and it was absolutely horrific. I could tell that she was dead," Ms Robson said in her police statement.

Mrs McKee then remained on the floor for another hour before another nurse checked her vital signs and found she was dead.

Despite not being able to determine an exact time of death or how long Mrs McKee suffered, Ms Denes noted that her death may have been preventable.

"What I can say is that, had she still been alive, she may have been able to have been resuscitated," she said.

Ms Denes also detailed an investigation by the Department of Health and Ageing which found the Mid Richmond Aged Care facility was in breach of its responsibilities under the Aged Care Act in relation to failing to properly implement recommendations about the bed poles issued in June 2010.

In a statement the owners of the facility, Baptist Community Services, said at all times, including at the time of the death, the Mid Richmond Centre at Coraki was fully accredited by the Department of Health and Ageing as a low-care residential facility.

"There are no minimum staff-resident ratios for low-care facilities," the statement said.

"Based on BCS's extensive experience operating aged care facilities, we maintain that our staffing at the Mid Richmond Centre on the night in question was appropriate."

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