Aged Care Facility Precipitates Avoidable Death
By Catherine Henry 
We assisted a client in her claim against an aged care facility concerning the preventable death of her mother (Mrs S) whilst she was under the facility’s care.
Mrs S was a resident of the secure dementia ward at the facility and was known by staff to tend to wander. Just three days after she entered the aged care facility, she was found to have escaped the locked ward. The daughter discovered her mother was missing when a friend had informed her that she had passed her mother walking along a busy road. She telephoned the facility who said that they had been looking for her too. By this stage, she was two kilometres away from the facility.
Three years later, Mrs S fell and fractured her hip in the garden of the facility and was transferred by ambulance to the John Hunter Hospital after she lay for over an hour on the ground. She was also diagnosed with pneumonia from lying in the cold for an hour and a half before nurses found her. As a result of the facility’s failure to ensure that Mrs S was safely housed and monitored, she subsequently passed away.
We alleged negligence on the part of the facility, arguing that they failed to ensure the safety of Mrs S, resulting in her exiting the premises through a security door that had been left ajar. We also alleged that the facility failed to appropriately address the absence of Mrs S for an hour and a half on the evening on which she fell.
The client was motivated by a desire to ensure that what happened to her mother did not happen to others. She was directed to the Aged Care Complaints Service (ACCS) which found that the facility had failed to meet its responsibilities to her mother and were in breach of the Quality of Care Principles.
It is imperative that aged care facilities take seriously the circumstances of each patient and the safety of their residents in order to avoid tragic outcomes. Mrs S’s death was preventable and easily avoidable had the care facility acted within their responsibilities and duty of care owed to Mrs S.
This case was successfully resolved.
If you or someone you know needs legal assistance, we encourage you to fill out ALARM’s GetHelp form on our website at www.ALARM.ORG.AU; or contact ALARM on (03) 9016 3248; or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org. You may then select, or, if you wish, we will direct you to, one of our Allied Law Firms for an initial meeting and advice, at no cost to you. Thereafter, you can decide whether to proceed with a formal legal complaint. If you do wish to proceed, costs arrangements, if any, will need to be discussed, and agreed, with the firm.
 Health & Aged Care Lawyer, Principal, Catherine Henry Lawyers Pty Limited, Sydney; ALARM Volunteer Consultant.
The views expressed in this article are the views of the author. The contents of this article are for general information purposes only and do not constitute legal advice, are not intended to be a substitute for legal advice, and should not be relied upon as such. Legal advice should be sought prior to any action being taken in reliance on any of the information. If you are in need of legal advice and/or assistance about aged care matters, please seek legal advice directly or via ALARM’s GET HELP form on its website: www.agedcarejustice.org.au.