An elderly man developed gangrene and later died in hospital after staff at a Gold Coast nursing home failed to properly monitor and treat pressure wounds on his buttocks and feet, according to the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner.
Zdenek Selir, who was known to friends and family as Danny, moved into the Leamington nursing home in Southport in June 2015 after suffering a stroke.
The 88-year-old had minor pressure wounds when he arrived, but the operator of the facility acknowledges his condition deteriorated during his stay.
Warning: this article contains a graphic image.
A family member was first alerted to the situation when she visited the home and noticed a foul odour.
“She could smell something in the room and she couldn’t work out what it was and she pulled the covers up because she thought maybe he needed changing or something,” said Mr Selir’s daughter-in-law, Yvonne Selir.
It turns out the situation was much more serious than that.
“He had pressure wounds to the lower buttocks and his back and it had eaten into his skin and it was actually going to go gangrene,” she said.
“The other pressure sore he had was on his heel and his heel was that badly affected it had already gone to gangrene.”
Ms Selir claims the visiting family member asked nursing home staff to call for an ambulance but they instead insisted his wounds were manageable. The operator of the facility disputes this.
According to Ms Selir, the relative took their own steps and called for alternative help.
Mr Selir was taken to the emergency department at the Gold Coast University Hospital, where doctors took photographs of his wounds and forwarded them to his family.
The images, some of which are too graphic to be published, reveal an enormous pressure wound, measuring 15 centimetres, on his buttocks.
They also show the full extent of the gangrene on one of his heels, which had turned black.
Ms Selir said her father-in-law was placed in a “fallout chair” for several hours at a time without being rotated and more should have been done to improve blood circulation.
But by the time Mr Selir reached the hospital, it was too late.
“There was nothing they could do because the infection had taken over and it was shutting his organs down,” she said.
“It was devastating to see him just laying there. It should never have happened.”
Unsatisfied with the initial response from the nursing home’s operator, Opal Aged Care, Ms Selir referred the matter to the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner.
It found in her favour, noting there was “insufficient recording of wound care” and that nursing staff were not “monitoring the wounds consistently” or keeping Mr Selir’s GP up-to-date on his condition.
Gary Barnier, managing director of Opal Aged Care, acknowledges mistakes were made, adding that Mr Selir should have been referred to a specialist.
“Not only should the registered nurses have paid a bit more attention to the dressing and so forth of the wound, I think, really, it should have been escalated in a more effective way,” he said.
“All I can say is how sorry I am that the family feels the way they do.”
Since taking over the nursing home a short time before this incident, Mr Barnier said Opal Aged Care had introduced new staff, systems, and processes to improve the quality of care provided to residents.
Staff have also undergone mandatory wound management training in response to the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner’s findings and recommendations.
“I think, again, training is important but staff need to make sure and management of homes need to make sure that we communicate effectively we families and we escalate appropriately,” Mr Barnier said.
When asked whether the failure to properly monitor and treat Mr Selir’s wounds hastened his death, Mr Barnier said: “I don’t know enough detail to comment.”
But Ms Selir said she believed her father-in-law died “because they weren’t providing him the care that he needed”.
Ms Selir has made a submission to the Australian Law Reform Commission’s inquiry into elder abuse, calling for higher standards of care in nursing homes.
However, Mr Barnier says Mr Selir’s case is not relevant to that inquiry.
“I absolutely reject the assertion there was any sort of elder abuse here,” he said.
“Elder abuse is a deliberate act, in my view, of mistreating a resident either physically, mentally, financially, or the like.”
The support group Aged And Disability Advocacy Australia (ADA Australia) disagreed.
“The definition of elder abuse that’s being adopted by the Law Reform Commission includes neglect and failure to provide the necessary care,” said chief executive Geoff Rowe.
“We need to think outside the traditional stereotype that it’s about someone being hit. Elder abuse is a very broad platform,” he said.
“Families should be able to expect that when they put their loved one in an aged care facility that they receive the appropriate health care that they need in that facility and it certainly appears that, in this situation, that wasn’t the case.”
Personal Note from NHA-Advocates: NHAA shares with all the families of loved ones who are confined to nursing homes the pain and anguish of putting them in the care of someone else. We expect our loved ones to be treated with dignity and honor in the homes we place them. We cannot emphasize enough to family members of nursing home residents; frequent visits are essential to our loved ones’ well-being and safety. This nursing home and many others across the country are cited for abuse and neglect.
You can make a difference. If you have a loved one living in this nursing home or any other nursing home where you suspect any form of abuse or neglect, contact us immediately.
We can help you and your loved one file a state complaint, hire a specialized nursing home attorney or help you find a more suitable location for your loved one.
Contact us through our CONTACT FORM located on our website here below or on the sidebar or call our toll free hot line number: 1-800-645-5262.
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