Max Murphy, 88, died after drinking a cleaning fluid when he was in a Hope Island nursing home.
Max Murphy, 88, died after drinking a cleaning fluid when he was in a Hope Island nursing home.

Nursing home’s careless 15 minutes

FIFTEEN minutes after the nursing facilities manager at a Hope Island nursing home was told a World War II hero had drunk cleaning fluid she packed up and went home, a court has heard.

While Maxwell Murphy, 88, was fighting for his life in a Gold Coast University Hospital, Lions Haven for the Aged facility manager Catherine Newman turned away a distressed staff member at 8pm and went to bed.

During the first day of an inquest at the Coroner's Court at Southport, into Mr Murphy's death Ms Newman was asked why she did not visit Mr Murphy.

"I'm not actually a clinician, I find that a little bit pointless … they (nursing staff) were doing clinical talk," Ms Newman replied.

Barrister for Mr Murphy's family John Farren asked Ms Newman if she regretted leaving work and sending her staff member away from her home that night.

"No," Ms Newman replied.

Mr Farren asked: "Would you do it the same way again?"

Ms Newman: "Possibly."

She told the inquest she began to review the CCTV the next day and instructed clinical nursing manager Pamela Fox to call his family.

Maxwell Murphy at the Adelaide War Memorial Cemetery in February 2014 — nine months before his death. Picture: Supplied
Maxwell Murphy at the Adelaide War Memorial Cemetery in February 2014 — nine months before his death. Picture: Supplied

Mr Murphy remained in intensive care for three days until he died about 4.20am on November 24, 2014.

Ms Newman told Coroner James McDougall Ms Fox came into her office about 2.45pm after Mr Murphy was found complaining of a burning mouth and struggling for breath.

It is alleged a "half empty" bottle of cleaning fluid Bacban was next to him.

By 4pm Mr Murphy was coughing up blood, the inquest was told.

It is not clear how much of the substance Mr Murphy drank.

Nursing staff remained with him but it was not until 5pm they called an ambulance and Mr Murphy was rushed to hospital.

The inquest was told the aged care facility had just two registered nurses for 60 residents for every shift.

Ms Newman said at 8pm on the day Mr Murphy swallowed the poison, Ms Fox turned up at her home distressed.

She said after a short conversation she sent Ms Fox home and she went to bed.

The coroner was shown clips of CCTV footage in the lead up to the incident showing staff going into and out of the room.

Max Murphy, 88, was an anti-aircraft gun ammunition runner during the Bombing of Darwin.
Max Murphy, 88, was an anti-aircraft gun ammunition runner during the Bombing of Darwin.

At about 11.30am a cleaner was seen going into the room with a chemical bottle but was not holding the bottle when she left.

Ms Newman told the court she had spoken to the cleaner who was adamant she had taken in a different cleaning product used to kill ants.

Counsel assisting the coroner Joanna Cull told the court based on testing done the solution had not been diluted by staff from what was provided in bulk by the chemical provider.

She asked facilities manager Catherine Newman if that would have been possible.

"I had not imagined a staff member would do that," Ms Newman said.

"I can't imagine a staff member would do that. I can't.

"I find that really distressing."

Ms Fox told the coroner she called the poison information hotline for advice after she was told Mr Murphy drank the substance and she the chemical would cause mouth pain and a stomach ache.

The inquest continues.