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Investigation launched into 'neglect' of man at Govt facility

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EXCLUSIVE: An investigation has been launched after a vulnerable man was rushed to hospital from a government-run Adelaide care facility in a state of “neglect”.

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He was living in a transitional residential service at Hampstead Rehabilitation Centre, for people with disabilities who have been discharged from a long stay in hospital and are awaiting more permanent accommodation.

Staff at the Northfield facility called an ambulance on June 3 when they noticed the man’s deteriorated 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 it is “closely looking into” the matter and says it “takes all complaints and reports… seriously”.

InDaily understands that ambulance officers and several clinicians at the Royal Adelaide Hospital have made complaints about the man’s condition.

One doctor told management the concerns centred around “basic hygiene and care, including wound care”.

The Department of Human Services runs the facility in question at Hampstead – called Transition to Home – and has launched an inquiry.

“We take allegations of care concerns very seriously and have commenced an investigation into services provided to this client,” a spokesperson said.

It’s understood the man was receiving wound management from a registered NDIS provider, and visits from a GP, while at the facility.

As well as launching its own investigation, the Department of Human Services has reported the matter to the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission.

A spokesperson for the SA Ambulance Service said “SAAS staff attend to patients with a wide variety of needs daily and have a responsibility to recognise and report safety, welfare, or wellbeing concerns”.

“In respecting patient confidentiality, SAAS is unable to provide comment on specific cases of this nature,” the spokesperson said.

An NDIS Commission spokesperson said “the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission (NDIS Commission) takes all complaints and reports of serious incidents that it receives seriously”.

“This includes allegations of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation,” the spokesperson said.

“The NDIS Commission is aware of this matter and is closely looking into it. No further comment can be made at this time.”

The Opposition has called for a full independent investigation into the management of the Hampstead unit.

The 24-bed Transition to Home program was opened at Hampstead in March last year at the start of the pandemic, to house people with disabilities discharged from hospital and awaiting more permanent accommodation.

SA Health owns Hampstead Rehabilitation Centre but the Transition to Home program is managed by the Department of Human Services.

Disability and care services are provided by the Department of Human Services as well as NDIS and external health providers.

Opposition health spokesman Chris Picton accused the State Government of “privatising” the care of patients and demanded authorities reveal which external providers are involved.

“It is shocking that the Government has privatised the care of these patients and there will now be an investigation into allegations of neglect and unsafe care,” he said.

“The fact that doctors have now submitted official complaints about the privatised care of these patients will send shockwaves through our health system.

“There is a need for a fully independent investigation into the management of this unit and the State Government’s role.

“The investigation into these allegations cannot be conducted in-house by the same people who put this privatised arrangement in place.”

A State Government spokesperson said “Labor is once again misinformed”.

“The Transition to Home program is run by the Government to get people living with disability out of hospital while they await a more permanent home,” the spokesperson said.

Hampstead Rehabilitation Centre. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Picton said SA Health had some “serious questions” to answer.

“What oversight has SA Health had over these patients?” he said.

“What assurances has SA Health sought before transferring patients into this privatised unit?

“What have they done since they started getting complaints from doctors about neglectful care?”

Picton said the NDIS Commission had no ability to review the State Government’s role, “as we have seen with the case of the neglect of Annie Smith”.

Ann Marie Smith died in the Royal Adelaide Hospital in April last year, of profound septic shock and multiple organ failure.

It is alleged the 54-year-old, who had cerebral palsy, had spent nearly a year sitting in a cane chair in putrid conditions in the lounge-room of her home.

Her carer, Rosemary Maione, has been charged with her manslaughter.

A spokesperson for the Central Adelaide Local Health Network said “in March 2020, the clinical and operational governance of the former Ward 2A at Hampstead was transferred from CALHN to the Department of Human Services Accommodation Services”.

“We believe people with a disability shouldn’t be in a hospital for longer than they need to be,” the spokesperson said.

“The Transition to Home service is not a health service, instead catering for clients who are discharged from acute hospitals and supported by disability support workers, under a DHS model of care.”

The Department of Human Services defended the Transition to Home program, saying “people with disability without a medical condition don’t belong in hospital”.

“The Transition to Home program supports the discharge of people with disability out of hospital and into supportive transitional accommodation in the community,” a spokesperson said.

It’s understood the facility has an average of 20 residents a day who spend three to four months there.

InDaily has asked the government if there have been other complaints or cases of concern from the unit.

The Human Services Department said it was aware of one other client issue that it said had been addressed, but wouldn’t provide any further details.

It also said more than 60 people had successfully transitioned into long-term community accommodation from the service since it opened last year.

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