ABC Radio National has aired a 'Background Briefing' on the case – click on that link to hear the report or read the transcript.
Reporter Wendy Carlisle takes a close look at some of the evidence about 300 Hostel, and speaks with the sister of Mohammed Talet Ramzan, one of the residents who died there.
Wendy Carlisle: In the days after Talet Ramzan’s death, letters went back and forth in the Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care. Reading them for the first time, Asha Ramzan gained a whole new insight into the bureaucratic attitude towards her brother’s death.
Asha Ramzan: (Reading) ‘Good morning, Peter. I was again this morning saddened by the news of yet another death at 300 Hostel...’ It’s as though she’s writing about something she watched on the news or heard about at the school gates!
Wendy Carlisle: Reading a bit further, Asha was in for a shock.
Asha Ramzan: Oh, OK, so Friday morning… I didn’t know this, that Talet was having difficulties breathing and was not well.
Wendy Carlisle: The letter explained that the home care worker who was employed by the Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care had told licensee Chris Young that Talet Ramzan was feeling unwell and having trouble breathing, just before he died.
Asha Ramzan: The worker did… home care worker did what I suppose she would have thought was her first line of action… would have been to let the owner of the boarding house, Chris Young, know and about his breathing. Chris Young said, ‘Oh, he probably is just… probably is making it up, because he doesn’t want to have a shower.’
Wendy Carlisle: Yeah, ‘cos he didn’t want to get out of bed.
Asha Ramzan: Yeah. And then he said, ‘Don’t worry. I’ll check him myself.’
Wendy Carlisle: According to the coronial inquest, the doctor was not called. Chris Young declined to be interviewed by Background Briefing.
Carlisle also interviews some of the advocates who raised the alarm about 300 Hostel.
Wendy Carlisle: The community advocacy group, People with Disabilities, thinks the coroner should have made some findings on who was responsible for the six people who died at 300 Hostel. From People with Disabilities, Matthew Bowden:
Matthew Bowden: I was very disappointed with the coroner’s findings. You know, the coroner, I mean she made a number of very strong statements that were about the health practitioners involved. She was also critical of Chris Young and the set-up at 300 Livingston Road, including, you know, the poor condition and staffing, et cetera, and also criticisms of Ageing, Disability and Home Care in their monitoring role. And yet having sort of raised these criticisms, made some very strong statements about the failures in the duty of those different agencies, there wasn’t a referral to the police for any criminal investigation or proceedings to occur.
And so she went so far, and made a statement about, you know, we should be judging our society on the way that we treat our most vulnerable people and yet here’s our judicial system, I think, also failing the most vulnerable people.
Wendy Carlisle: The coroner recommended the sector be much more tightly regulated, and one of her more important recommendations was that there should be annual health reviews for residents with disabilities in boarding houses. But Myree Harris [Coalition for Appropriate Supported Accommodation] says she should have gone further.
Myree Harris: I can’t believe the healthcare complaints tribunal, or whatever it is, the medical tribunal, why is it that medical people are not called to account? There’s something wrong. Someone should be holding people to account if they neglect to provide adequate care, particularly to the most vulnerable people, who don’t have family members to scream and shout because they’re not being looked after. These people have no one.
Not quite no-one: advocates like Myree Harris, PWD, NCOSS, Homelessness NSW, the TU and others have been pressing the cause of licensed boarding house residents for years, and the NSW State Government now promises an effective regime of standards and monitoring in boarding houses, both licensed and unlicensed.
We're still awaiting all the details of the proposed reforms. When we see them, we and the other advocates will make submissions with a view to making the proposed regime work. But, rather like with the Coroner's findings, there's a sense that something further should be done – and that is, plan for the closure of the licensed boarding house sector.
Boarding houses for people who need accommodation, whether they've a disability or not – we need more of them. Boarding house managers who have a bit of training in dealing with disability and mental illness, and who know where to get support for people – we need more of them too. But a subsector that accommodates people with disability only, with the landlord supposedly providing the care and support, funded by residents' pensions, and operated for profit – it must end.