Tragic death highlights need for 24/7 registered nursing in nursing homes

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A Victorian Coroner has found that a 76 year-old woman should have been sent straight to hospital after a fall in a nursing home. The home had no registered nurse on duty at the time and the Coroner described the initial assessments she received by enrolled nurses as “inadequate” and “deficient”.


Mrs Ena Vickers suffered a fall at midday on Monday 30 July 2012 and was not seen by a registered nurse until some four hours later. She was then transferred to hospital, where it was found she had suffered fractures and bleeding around her brain. Mrs Vickers died on 4 August 2012.


“This is a tragic case that sadly shows what can happen when there is no registered nurse on duty at all times”, said Ms Jan Barham, NSW Greens spokesperson on Ageing.


“Although an immediate assessment by a registered nurse and transfer to hospital may not have changed the outcome, it may have reduced any suffering experienced by Mrs Vickers after the fall.”


“Because there was no registered nurse on duty at the time of her fall, Mrs Vickers was attended to by personal care assistants and enrolled nurses. I don’t want to downplay the skills of these employees, but the Coroner found that Mrs Vickers should have been examined by a registered nurse or medical practitioner straight after her fall because of the seriousness of the situation.”


“Last year I chaired an inquiry into registered nurses in NSW nursing homes, which found that a registered nurse should be on duty at all times so that they can respond to incidents like this one.”


“I understand that Mrs Vickers had high-care needs and a history of Parkinson’s and dementia. Our inquiry found that registered nurses are critical in the care of such residents because they can exercise their professional judgement about their clinical care needs.”


The NSW Government is currently reviewing its state regulation for nursing homes to have a registered nurse on duty at all times. There is no similar Commonwealth requirement, despite it being the primary regulator of aged care.


“I call on the NSW Government to adopt the recommendation made by the NSW Inquiry to have a registered nurse on duty at all times in nursing homes where people have high care needs.”


“I also extend my condolences to the family of Mrs Vickers.”


For further comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891


Victorian Coroner’s findings into the death of Mrs Ena Edith Vickers:

NSW Inquiry into Registered nurses in New South Wales nursing homes: