Senior SA Health and disability executives this morning gave evidence about Smith’s care history to Parliament’s Budget and Finance committee, 10 days after police declared her death a major crime and opened a manslaughter investigation.
Police, Coronial and state and federal inquiries are currently underway into the circumstances of Smith’s death in hospital on April 6 from septic shock, multiple organ failure, severe pressure sores and malnourishment which developed at her Kensington Gardens home.
Despite being assigned a carer by NDIS-administered non-government organisation Integrity Care SA, SA police said the 54-year-old woman with cerebral palsy spent 24-hours a day for more than a year sitting in a chair, and there was little food in the house.
After the police announcement, Integrity Care said it had terminated the employment of Smith’s carer Rosemary Maione, due to “serious and wilful misconduct”.
“We trusted our carer and believe that we have been completely misled by her,” it said.
The NDIS last week said it wasn’t told about Smith’s death for two weeks – and even then not by Integrity Care – despite the agency being required to do so within 24 hours, while Human Services Minister Michelle Lensink said she didn’t find out for a month.
SA Human Services Department acting chief executive Lois Boswell told the committee today that after learning of the death, the records of Smith’s carer Maione were accessed and it was found that the family of a Domiciliary Care client had previously accused her over a client’s missing money.
“The allegations were made in January 2103 and they were in response to …. this particular worker was in someone’s home on a number of occasions when money had gone missing,” Boswell said.
“The family, as I understand it, asked that it not be reported to the police.”
Boswell said Domiciliary Care, which had been part of the government department at the time, had banned Maione from providing care to its clients.
The carer continued to work with Integrity Care, her employer.
Boswell also revealed today that Maione had been employed without being screened for working with vulnerable people.
She told the committee that Integrity Care had made an application for Maione to be screened for working with vulnerable people on April 15, less than two weeks after Smith had died.
The screening was approved on April 24 by the department, but the previous allegations of theft had not been passed on from another section of the department.
The approval was rescinded this month, after the department became aware of Smith’s death.
“As soon as we were aware, we cancelled her screening,” Boswell said.
“What is quite concerning is that there was the application after Ann-Marie’s death because Integrity Care had obligations to report and advise us.”
“Horrendous and unthinkable”
Smith was previously under the oversight of state-run Disability SA, but was moved to the federal NDIS in 2018, with Disability SA wound down, along with its monitoring and services such as a 24-hour helpline.
When asked why Integrity Care would assign a single employee to look after a disabled person needing care every day, seven days a week, Boswell said: “Any responsible service provider would know that doesn’t appear to be possible.”
“It appears to me horrendous and unthinkable, and would appear to be a significant failing,” she told the committee.
Outside of the committee, Labor’s human services spokesperson Nat Cook said the Government needed to explain today’s revelations.
“It is truly shocking to learn that Ann Marie Smith’s carer received approval for a Working with Vulnerable People check 15 days after her tragic death,” she said.
“Minister Michelle Lensink must explain how this has happened on her watch and how she did not know.”
Premier Steven Marshall pointed to the SA Police inquiry into Smith’s death, telling reporters: “Let’s wait to see what the investigation shows.”
He said a State Government taskforce would look at gaps in the system which had been identified many times in the past.
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