Daughter of man who died after fall at Roy Fagan Centre in 2013 furious at latest care issues

Cheryl Weily pictured leaning against a wall of windows.
Cheryl Weily said her family had been “continually worried” about the level of care for her father at the Roy Fagan Centre.(ABC News: Luke Bowden)

A Tasmanian woman whose father died shortly after breaking his hip at the state’s top mental health facility says she is incensed that it is still experiencing issues years after she first raised concerns.

Key points:

  • A coroner recommended the Roy Fagan Centre review its processes around fall risks after Richard Weily’s death
  • An advocacy group said the discovery of a maggot-infested wound that triggered a report into the centre is not an isolated incident of poor care
  • Mental Health Minister Jeremy Rockliff said he won’t be surprised if he receives more complaints about the Roy Fagan Centre following the release of the report

Cheryl Weily’s father Richard was a patient at the Roy Fagan Centre for just three weeks in 2013. 

The 85-year-old had a long-term cardiac issue and had been living at a nursing home, but worsening Parkinson’s disease and dementia meant that he was sent to the facility.

Ms Weily said she and her sister were “continually worried” about the level of care for her father while he was at the Roy Fagan Centre.

She said staff placed her father on medication that they said would increase his risk of falls but did not take proper steps to manage that risk. 

“It came out in dad’s coronial inquest that there was no falls management risk completed, staff weren’t aware of that, there were no hip supports, there was no lowered beds, there was no alarm system on his bed,” she told ABC Radio Hobart.

Richard 'Pod' Weily
Richard “Pod” Weily died six days after fracturing his hip in a fall at the Roy Fagan Centre.(Supplied: Cheryl Weily)

Mr Weily fractured his hip at the Roy Fagan Centre in July 2013 after falling from his bed, his second fall at the facility.

He died six days later at the Royal Hobart Hospital, due to what coroner Rod Chandler labelled as “probable pneumonia” following the hip fracture.

Coroner Chandler found that a falls risk assessment for Mr Weily was not conducted until nine days after his admission to the Roy Fagan Centre, a delay described as “staggering” by a nurse who gave evidence at his inquest. 

The coroner recommended the Roy Fagan Centre review its processes around fall risks so they were promptly carried out, and risks were properly recorded on patient’s individual service plans. 

Fury at centre’s new issues 

A report by chief psychologist Dr Aaron Groves released on Tuesday found that the Roy Fagan was “out of date and inadequate” for some patients, had a shortage of staff members and there was no contemporary model of care.

The report was commissioned after a 78-year-old dementia patient was discovered with maggot-infested wounds on Christmas Day last year.

Ms Weily said she was “furious” because stories of issues at the facility kept surfacing.

She said she understood caring for her father towards the end of his life “wasn’t easy”.

“I understand totally that we needed help, but the public is not being alerted to complex care issues, this is very basic personal care,” she said.

“Managing my dad when he had a fall, [another patient] having maggots on a wound. Are we talking about this in 2021? I can’t believe that.”

Cheryl Weily looks through an album with photos of her father Richard.
Cheryl Weily said the family understood caring for her father towards the end of his life “wasn’t easy”.(ABC News: Luke Bowden)

The Tasmanian government has accepted all of the report’s six recommendations but has yet to put a timeframe on when additional staff will be employed, or a statewide Older Persons Mental Health Service set up. 

Mental Health Minister Jeremy Rockliff said he needed to know of concerns people had about care in the Roy Fagan Centre and the wider health system and apologised for any substandard experiences.

“We aim to give the best possible care to all Tasmanians in all our health settings and our wonderful staff in … our hospitals, in areas such as Roy Fagan do the best possible job under challenging circumstances,” he said.

“I have received correspondence of historical natures with respect to care at Roy Fagan, we’ve followed those up immediately of course, and I don’t doubt that we may well receive further feedback as a result of the feedback released yesterday.

“I am absolutely committed to ensuring that we have the highest possible care, contemporary care, for all our residents and patients at Roy Fagan.”

Maggot incident ‘inconceivable’ for developed country

Labor mental health spokesman Bastian Seidel said the maggot incident was “completely unacceptable”.

“[I’ve never seen] maggot in wounds, regardless of where I worked in the last two decades,” he said.

“Even in rural Africa, I haven’t seen maggots in wounds; it’s inconceivable for that to happen in any environment in a developed country.”

The report found the care to the man was “well below an acceptable level” in the 24 hours before the maggot incident was discovered but had been “satisfactory” throughout the rest of his admission — the same grading it gave to the care for all residents at the Roy Fagan Centre.

The exterior of a brick building slightly obscured by some trees
Staff at the Roy Fagan Centre were trying to “do the best possible job under challenging circumstances”, the government said.(ABC News: Luke Bowden)

Dr Seidel said it had been known for many years that there were staffing shortages at the facility.

“The Roy Fagan report clearly stated that the healthcare workers cannot work any harder, they are literally off their feet each and every day,” he said.

“If you can’t look after your patients, if you can’t care for them in a hospital because there is not enough staff there the most vulnerable in our society will suffer, the elderly, patients with dementia, patients who need our care each and every day.” 

Advocacy Tasmania chief executive Leanne Groombridge said she had no faith that the maggot incident at Roy Fagan was an isolated incident of poor care.

“From what our clients are telling us, from what the families of clients are telling us, it is not an isolated incident,” she said.

“We have people that are afraid to leave their room, they are kept in their room, four walls surrounding them, no quality of life.

“If this had happened to someone privately with a family, they would be charged, but it’s happening in our hospitals. Is anyone being charged for this neglect, for this elder abuse? I don’t think so.”