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Oakden nursing home death still haunts family, coroner asked to investigate

ABC Health logoABC Health 7/05/2017
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The family of a woman who died while staying at South Australia's condemned Oakden nursing home wants the coroner to investigate her death nearly a decade on.

Cheryl Martin died of bronchopneumonia in 2008 at the age of 43. Years later her death still haunts her family.

"If they had got my mum treatment immediately when she had a fall and they got her to the hospital, I still believe that my mum may still be alive," Michelle Martin said.

The South Australian Government is set to close the Oakden Older Persons Mental Health Facility in Adelaide, amid allegations of systemic abuse and neglect of patients dating back 10 years.

Several families have come forward documenting what happened inside the facility, from overmedication, rough handling of residents and the use of isolation and restraint.

Ms Martin said she believed her mother was overmedicated and claims she went downhill fast.

"I would say within a year she was terrible," she said.

"She was always very heavily medicated, [I] couldn't hold a conversation with her at all."

The Martin's family is writing to the coroner, in the hope Mark Johns will take a closer look at her death, despite it happening years ago.

Ms Martin claims her mother dislocated her shoulder in the weeks before she died.

"I would go in winter and her feet would be purple and you could tell that she was cold and she would be in a skirt and a t-shirt," she said.

"We found out that she had holes through her underwear, her socks, it was terrible.

"I would leave and be in tears and wish that there was something I could do but I was so young."

Nick Xenophon Team leader, Senator Nick Xenophon, has written to the coroner, raising concerns about four other deaths at the facility.

A spokeswoman for the coroner said he was considering Senator Xenophon's letter.

"At this stage, it is not known how many cases further to those mentioned in the letter are likely to be the subject of further expressions of concern, as this is a developing situation," the spokeswoman said.

"The coroner's present intention is to wait until he has a better idea of the scope of the task, then he will be in a position to decide what action to take."

The spokeswoman said the coroner may also need extra resources.

"There may be resourcing implications for Forensic Science SA and South Australia Police, both of whom would be required to assist in carrying out any inquiries and reviews."

The Government has blamed a culture of cover-up for problems at Oakden continuing for so long without their knowledge.

It said it would work with the Courts Administration Authority to "determine what additional resources may be required".

Ms Martin said despite the time that had passed, she wanted someone held to account for what she believes was the poor treatment of her mother.

"I have to do this, even if we don't get answers for mum, I do not want this to happen to anyone else," she said.

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