Maggots in wound of patient in aged care

Annunziata Santoro's daughter has told a royal commission of maggots in her mother's foot wound.
Annunziata Santoro's daughter has told a royal commission of maggots in her mother's foot wound.

A Melbourne woman says her mother would still be alive if she had received proper treatment for a pressure wound that was later infected, with maggots found inside it.

Anamaria Ng wept on Wednesday while telling the Royal Commission into Aged Care how horrified she was that the wound in her mother's heel had been left untreated for months in a Melbourne aged care home.

Annunziata Santoro was living at The Assisi Centre in Melbourne, which catered for the city's elderly Italian community.

The Assisi Centre nursing unit manager Jamuna Jacob had tried to stop her GP Eric Tay telling Ms Ng and other family members about the maggots, she said.

Dr Tay confirmed that on Wednesday.

Mrs Santoro, who had dementia, died only days later at the age of 94 in October 2018, with the bone infection in her heel contributing to her death, according to Dr Tay.

Assisi staff told Ms Ng and Dr Tay that Mrs Santoro's increasing agitation was a behavioural problem, that she was "not in much pain at all", and did not give her painkillers over three months as the wound became a bone infection.

That mistake led to Dr Tay prescribing anti-psychotic medicine she did not need.

It also led to Ms Ng and her two brothers paying extra for physiotherapy for their mother that included weight-bearing exercises that would have added to her excruciating pain.

Her last days were spent in pain and heavily sedated, which also resulted in rapid weight loss that Assisi did not address, an emotional Ms Ng said.

Ms Jacob had made light of the maggots and blamed it on family members who had taken her on a day trip, she said.

"I was appalled that she was essentially not prepared to take responsibility for what happened," Ms Ng told the royal commission.

She relocated her mother to palliative care elsewhere but Mrs Santoro died within a couple of days.

"At this point, my mother's management had been so poor, her pain management and her care, and I had just completely lost faith," said Ms Ng.

"I believe she would still be alive today if her pain and care had been properly managed."

The aged care commissioner made scathing findings of "significant gaps" in Mrs Santoro's care, including the home not telling the family or doctor about the heel wound "until it was too late".

The not-for-profit organisation was doing a "root cause analysis" to "ensure that this type of incident or any incident for that matter never occurs again", Assisi's chairman Don Smarrelli said.

Australian Associated Press