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'We blew the whistle': NDIS provider speaks out about Adelaide 'neglect' case

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A disability support service that helped care for a man at the centre of neglect allegations in a State Government-run facility says it “blew the whistle” on his poor state and called an ambulance.

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Disability neglect concerns

The owner of the non-government organisation has told InDaily the man’s wound was already present and in a bad way when her company was contacted to assist with personal care and wound dressing.

“We walked into a situation we didn’t expect,” she said.

“We didn’t expect to find him like that. We did what we were supposed to do.

“We are the ones who called the ambulance, we are the ones who blew the whistle, to say something was wrong here.”

As InDaily revealed last month, the man was being cared for in the Transition to Home service at Hampstead Rehabilitation Centre when he was rushed to hospital in a state of alleged neglect with an infected wound.

More than a month later, he is still being treated in the Royal Adelaide Hospital.

Ambulance officers and several clinicians made complaints about the man’s condition.

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

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 (DHS).

DHS has launched an internal inquiry into the man’s case and has also referred it to the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission, although the Commission says it doesn’t have the power to investigate state government-run services, only individual NDIS providers.

The State Government yesterday said the matter was now also being independently investigated by the Health and Community Services Complaints Commissioner (HCSCC).

We are the ones who blew the whistle, to say something was wrong here

The NDIS provider, who doesn’t want her company identified, has worked in the industry for more than two decades.

She said she was now worried her organisation and staff could get “thrown under a bus” and wrongly blamed for the man’s condition.

“We went in to help, we noticed there was a problem and because it wasn’t getting better and he wasn’t looking very well, we are the ones that called the ambulance,” she said.

“We are the ones that alerted this, that there was an issue here.”

The provider said her company had worked with the man on and off for a couple of years.

She said their last contact with him was several weeks earlier when they were helping support him during an unrelated hospital stay.

She said the company was then contacted at the end of May by the man’s support worker to help with personal care and would dressing for a pressure sore, while he was at the Hampstead facility.

She said that when her staff went out to assess the man – who they hadn’t had contact with for several weeks – he had a wound with broken skin that was already looking bad.

We were worried about his welfare

A decision was made to call an ambulance if things didn’t improve over the weekend.

She said her registered nurse was brought to tears by the man’s condition when she went out to see him a few days later and her staff immediately called an ambulance.

“We were worried about his welfare,” she said.

“Where we sit if something isn’t getting better we just go straight to hospital.

“It’s not something that can be dealt with locally like that.

“My thought was that he might need strong antibiotics to get this better.”

The provider said the terrible case of Ann Marie Smith – who died in hospital last year of septic shock and organ failure after allegedly being left to sit in a cane chair for a year – was “always in our mind”.

“We work really hard to get people well,” she said.

“One of the policies we have is if we can’t deal with it, call an ambulance.”

She said she didn’t know how the man “got into that state”.

“All I know is that’s what we found and the best thing was to get him to hospital,” she said.

Opposition human services spokeswoman Nat Cook said the NDIS provider’s account highlighted how crucial it was that the matter was investigated fully and independently.

“It’s clear that the circumstances surrounding this terrible outcome for a person awaiting a permanent solution to their accommodation is absolutely not good enough and nothing short of an independent inquiry is acceptable,” she said.

“This requires a swift and concise inspection on what led up to the events so that nobody else in that environment can suffer the same consequences.

“My decades of experience in intensive care and other nursing environments tells me that a wound exuding pus secondary to pressure areas does not happen overnight.

“People looking after him must have seen this. Or the alternate is that people weren’t actually looking after him.”

A spokesperson for Human Services Minister Michelle Lensink said: “We won’t be commenting further as there is an independent investigation into this case by the HCSCC – and therefore it’s not appropriate.”

A DHS spokesperson said: “As the matter is in the hands of the Commissioner, it is not appropriate for the Department to comment further.”

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