Queensland aged care death ‘could have been prevented’

THE death of an elderly woman in a Cairns aged care home could have been prevented had staff properly managed the fellow resident who attacked her, a coroner has found.

Betty Quayle, 89, was living at Glenmead Village in May 2013 when she was assaulted by a 74-year-old male dementia sufferer and later died from her injuries in Cairns Hospital.

He was charged with manslaughter over the incident, which involved the use of pillow, but the charge was later thrown out by the Mental Health Court who found him of unsound mind at the time.

Cairns-based Northern Coroner Nerida Wilson has today handed down findings into the incident and ruled the man had "a clear history of violence towards staff and residence" leading up to the attack on Mrs Quayle.

She said Glenmead Village had made the decision to move him from a secure unit to a non-secure unit just six days after an altercation with a female resident because his doctor suggested it might "decrease his frustration".

Ms Wilson has ordered her findings be forwarded to the Royal Commission into Age Care which is currently under way.

She described Mrs Quayle as "fragile" and "vulnerable" with a forensic pathologist ruling her cause of death as a "blunt force head injury".

"I find that if Glenmead Village had adequately managed the risk of harm posed by (the 74-year-old), Mrs Quayle's death could have been prevented," Ms Wilson said in her findings.

"Blue Care (which operated the facility) have not acknowledged any systems or procedural failures on their part in this instance.

"I am of the view that the general fragility of Mrs Quayle's body tissue clearly indicates her particular vulnerability, and her requirement for care and protection.

The man, who likely had alcohol related dementia, had wandered from his wing into Mrs Quayle's room about 3am on May 30 and believed he was in his own room so told her to wake up and get out of bed.

She was unable to move so he attempted to remove her, assaulted her several times, then left the room.

A nurse found him with blood on his clothes and hands.

Mrs Quayle was then located seriously injured, including a deep skin tear to her left arm.

She died the following day in hospital.