8 May 2024

IRT Tarrawanna resident 'lives in fear', family calls on board to step in

| Zoe Cartwright
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Andy McKissock

A resident of IRT Tarrawanna, Andy McKissock has a learning disability. His family says he doesn’t feel safe after another resident allegedly made threats to kill him. Photo: Catherine Russo.

Catherine Russo fears for her uncle Andy McKissock, a resident of IRT Tarrawanna.

Andy has a learning disability and cannot live independently.

While in care, he claims other residents have threatened him and made him feel unsafe – including a woman with dementia, who allegedly threatened to hang him and stab him.

Cathy and her husband raised the issue with management, but felt it was glossed over.

Andy remained anxious – and last time Cathy visited, she made a shocking discovery.

Andy had allegedly found a blade and hidden it in his bedroom as security.

“It doesn’t matter what time of day or night we go to visit him, he’s in a dark room with no noise on for fear,” Cathy said.

“He’s not a mainstream person; he takes things very literally. We know the person who threatened him has dementia, they don’t mean it – but he doesn’t understand that, and he doesn’t feel safe.”

IRT Tarrawanna

The blade Andy’s family allegedly found in his room at IRT Tarrawanna. Photo: Catherine Russo.

Cathy said the incident with the blade was the final straw in a string of issues.

She claims Andy’s room, and the room of another resident she is friends with, are often left unclean, especially after personal hygiene mishaps.

She worries they are not receiving enough support with washing and grooming.

“Andy has spasticity on one side of his body and also constantly shakes,” she said.

She said he had an electric razor, but was sometimes given disposable razors which regularly left him with scratches.

“When we collect Andy for home visits he is regularly unshaven, ungroomed and wearing mismatched clothing.”

Cathy also claimed medication was not always administered appropriately, leading to medical complications.

She and her husband are frustrated with the standard of care and lack of communication.

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IRT CEO Patrick Reid said the complaints were taken seriously.

“While we can’t discuss the circumstances of an individual for privacy and dignity reasons, we are aware of a recent complaint that is being thoroughly investigated,” he said.

“At the request of the complainant, the IRT Board has also been made aware of this issue.

“We investigate all complaints and concerns raised with us and work with the resident and their nominated representative on what actions are required and monitor these actions to ensure they are embedded into practice.

“We accept that there will be times when family members are disappointed and we sincerely apologise for the anguish this can cause. We strive for continuous improvement and always encourage people who have concerns to please speak with us.”

Cathy claims there was little action on previous complaints she and her husband had made.

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As a result of their dissatisfaction with the way complaints were handled, Cathy and her husband requested a meeting with the board of directors, which was denied.

She said she felt for the staff, who were doing their best with the resources available, but it was up to the board of directors to take action.

“Middle management representatives and the CEO have not addressed our concerns over the past four years,” she claimed.

“It is the IRT’s responsibility to not only improve the quality of life of people receiving care but to ensure their safety.

“We want the board and CEO to rectify these issues.”

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