Rest home worker who slapped patient may face further action

A rest home worker convicted of assaulting an elderly dementia patient may face further legal action.

Hamilton District Court Photo: RNZ

In 2016 Sonali Ananta Deo was convicted and discharged at the Hamilton District Court of assaulting 86-year-old Piri Hemi at Cascades Retirement Resort in the city.

The then-healthcare assistant had been filmed by a video camera hidden in a digital clock and caught slapping and manhandling Mr Hemi between 7.30 and 8am one morning.

According to Deputy Health and Disability Commissioner Rose Wall, family members had installed the camera after becoming suspicious about his treatment, because of what he would tell them when they visited: “He would cover his head and say, ‘Don‘t hit me, please don‘t hit me, yes I am dumb, I am dumb”, and he stopped singing, talking and whistling.”

Ms Wall said in her report, released today, that the video showed that “Mr A was in bed and, while trying to provide his cares, Ms C dragged him roughly across the bed, slapped his hip and tapped him five times on the side of his face.”

She added that Deo (who is identified only as Ms C but was named in the earlier court proceedings) had also thrown the bed linen on the floor “which would not be accepted as good hygiene or infection control practices”.

Ms Wall said the actions by Deo and the resthome breached patient rights.

She said Deo had said she needed help to lift Mr Hemi but no one was available at the time to assist.

Ms Wall added: “I note that Ms C did not report her tiredness or stress to management. In my view, these factors do not excuse her having struck Mr A, her rough handling of Mr A, and her lack of compliance with good hygiene practices. I acknowledge that working with elderly residents can be challenging. However, the use of unreasonable force is completely unacceptable.”

She ordered the rest home and Deo to apologise, requiring other changes of the rest home too. As well, she has referred Deo to the office‘s independent director of proceedings for possible further legal action.