Residential care tragedy - The Duty of Care

10/03/2015 19:30

Residential care tragedy a wakeup call

10 March 2015

IHC’s service delivery arm, Idea Services, has been ordered to pay reparation of $90,000 and fined $63,500 over the death of a 15-year-old with multiple disabilities who drowned in the bath at a respite care home in Palmerston North.

Nathan Booker had a profound intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, spastic quadriplegia and suffered from epilepsy. He received respite care at Idea Service’s Woburn facility, which included overnight stays. He drowned after being left unattended in the bath on 10 January 2014. An hour before his bath Mr Booker had been given his medication, which could have caused him to become drowsy.

Idea Services pleaded guilty under sections 15 and 50 of the Health and Safety in Employment Act for failing to take all practicable steps to ensure no action or inaction of an employee harmed another person. The company was sentenced today in the Palmerston North District Court.

WorkSafe New Zealand’s Chief Inspector, Keith Stewart, says Nathan Booker’s death was a needless tragedy and his thoughts are with the family.

“Nathan was a young man with complex needs. He was not capable of bathing himself. His care documents stated that he required ‘full support’ and his care plan said that he must be ‘supervised at all times’. He simply should not have been left alone in the bath.

“Idea Services failed to specifically identify the hazard of a child drowning or the risks of giving a person sedatives prior to bathing. The company’s systems and procedures were not sufficiently clear about the level of supervision required for bathing someone with limited abilities. Training in relation to bathing was also ‘on the job’, and there was no formal monitoring of staff after their initial instructions.

“Idea Services should also have had a procedure in place to deal with situations when employees were called away during bath time to deal with urgent matters.

“If Nathan had been fully supervised and not left alone during his bath this tragedy is unlikely to have occurred. This case should serve as a wakeup call to the residential care sector to ensure that they fully assess and manage the risks of services such as bathing people with complex needs,” says Keith Stewart.