NDIS fines provider after disabled woman’s death

The aged care provider responsible for providing care for a woman who died in shocking and degrading circumstances last month has been fined $12,600.

Ann-Marie Smith, 54, died on April 6 from septic shock, multiple organ failure, severe pressure sores and malnourishment while receiving full time care in her Kensington Gardens home in South Australia.

Ms Smith, who had cerebral palsy, had been living and sleeping in a woven cane chain for 24 hours of the day, and had been forced to use the chair as a toilet. Investigators found her home empty of nutritional food and without a fridge.

Following her death, carers failed to report she had died for a full two weeks. Her death is now the subject of multiple inquiries including a police manslaughter investigation.

Integrity Care SA, who provided Ms Smith, with full time care through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), have now been fined by the Quality and Safeguards Commission for failing to report the death to the NDIS.

Ms Smith’s carer has also been sacked by Integrity Care SA, over what the provider called her “serious and wilful misconduct”.

SA Premier Steven Marshall said the state government wanted to do everything possible to protect people living with a disability.

“The case has sickened us, sickened every single person here in South Australia,” he said.

“We want to make sure this can never, ever happen again.”

Police became involved in the case after a complaint was made to the Health and Community Services Complaints Commissioner about the standard of care Ms Smith received.

“Ann was living her days and sleeping at night in the same woven-comb chair in her lounge room for over a year,” Detective Superintendent Des Bray said last week.

“That chair became her toilet, and there was no fridge and investigators were unable to locate any nutritional food in the house.”

Ronald Sackville QC, the royal commissioner investigating the treatment of the disabled, called Ms Smith’s death a “deeply distressing case”.

Mr Sackville said his inquiry may also look directly into the plight of Ms Smith who had been receiving full-time care through the NDIS.

“It is inappropriate for the royal commission to initiate an immediate inquiry into events where that might prejudice an ongoing criminal investigation or a possible future prosecution,” Commissioner Sackville said in a statement on Wednesday.

“For that reason, the royal commission will not at this time commence an inquiry into the specific circumstances surrounding Ms Smith’s death.

“It is, however, open to the royal commission to undertake such an inquiry at a later stage and it will follow the progress of the other investigations.” Mr Sackville said people with disabilities had the right to live independently in the community and in the safety of their home.

He said his commission would expose many of the underlying issues that were pertinent to the circumstances of Ms Smith’s death.

Ms Smith died a day after being admitted to hospital with severe ulcerated and infected tissue and other serious illnesses.

Police became involved after a complaint was made to the Health and Community Services Complaints Commissioner about the standard of care Ms Smith received.

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