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Care Of Elderly Woman After Ants Found In Her Room And Bed

Deputy Health and Disability Commissioner Rose Wall today released a report finding a care home operator in breach of the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights (the Code) for failures in the care of an elderly resident after ants were discovered in her room and bed.

The woman was 95 years old at the time of the incident, and was receiving hospital-level care. She had multiple co-morbidities and was incapacitated and reliant on others for all aspects of her care. Initially, a few ants were noticed in the woman’s room, and staff sprayed insecticide and cleaned the area. They did not locate the source of the ants or document and report the ants on this date.

The following day, the woman’s niece visited, and reported finding several dozen ants crawling on her aunt’s face and neck. She said that when staff arrived to attend to the issue, none of them acknowledged the woman in any way, instead focusing on their search for the source of the ants. The nurse involved told HDC that he did not see ants on the woman but did see ants on her sheets. The care home operator considers that staff did acknowledge the woman in a non-formal verbal manner, but said that the staff involved acknowledge that they focused on the source of the ants over the immediate provision of care.

Deputy Commissioner Rose Wall considered that care home staff took insufficient action to investigate the extent of the ant problem and ensure that the source was managed appropriately, and that this showed a lack of critical thinking and proactive management. She was also critical of documentation by staff.

Ms Wall also considered that in prioritising the source of the ants rather than providing immediate care to the woman, staff failed to respect the woman’s dignity.

"[The woman] had complex care needs owing to her various co-morbidities and limited mobility and communication," said Ms Wall. "She was reliant on [care home] staff to provide all her cares and, as such, was a particularly vulnerable consumer… [Her] vulnerability made it critically important that the care provided to her respected her dignity and independence."

The Deputy Commissioner made a number of recommendations, including that the care home operator provide HDC with an update on the changes made since these events; undertake a random audit of 15 patients regarding documentation; and provide a written apology to the woman and her family.

The full report for case 19HDC00370 is available on the HDC website.

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