Care home reported after maggots found in resident’s wounds

Date: Jul 07, 2017

Doctors made an official complaint against a Canberra care home after one of its residents was sent for emergency treatment with maggot-infested wounds.

Peter Tunnecliffe, a 77-year-old dementia sufferer, was living at the Southern Cross Care facility in Garran when he was rushed to Canberra Hospital for treatment to cancer lesions on his face and scalp.

However, according to the Canberra Times, medical practitioners were shocked to find approximately 50 fully grown maggots crawling in the wounds.

When the patient's family confronted the nursing home about the situation, they were allegedly told by the facility's then-manager that maggots "were good for wounds" because they "clean them out".

Formal negligence complaint lodged

Clinical Director of Emergency Care at the hospital Dr Gregory Hollis and a senior nurse urged the federal government to investigate Southern Cross Care in a letter to the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner.

"The presentation of Mr Tunnecliffe and response provided to the family and GP has raised serious concerns," the letter read.

Mr Tunnecliffe died on February 19, approximately two months after the incident. His family were initially reluctant to speak out publicly but have since said they want to raise awareness and prevent other aged cared residents experiencing similar ordeals.

"I go to bed thinking about what happened to him. I wake up thinking about it. He didn't want to spend his last days like that," his daughter Stephanie commented.

The Aged Care Quality Agency launched a surprise audit into Southern Cross Care after receiving the complaint. The investigation report stated that the home's services "did not meet expected outcomes relating to information systems, clinical care, skin care and behavioural management".

Audit results lead to apology

The board of Southern Cross Care has since apologised to the man's family, including an acknowledgement of the then-manager's "insensitive" and "inappropriate" comments.

"What happened to this gentleman is distressing and should never have happened in our aged care home or any home," said Paul McMahon, the chief executive of the company's NSW and ACT branch.

"Our thoughts go out to his family. We have been working closely with the Aged Care Quality Agency and the Department of Health and are now fully [compliant] against all 44 aged care standards."

His comments followed recent research that showed preventable deaths in aged care homes have quadrupled in just 13 years. Almost 3,000 people died over this period due to falls, homicide, suicide, choking and other incidents.

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