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Nurse didn't stop fatal rampage: inquest

AAP logoAAP 24/11/2016 Rick Goodman

A nurse has been slammed for hiding behind a locked door as a rampaging elderly dementia patient bludgeoned another woman to death at an Adelaide nursing home.

Registered nurse Uta Latz hid in the nurses' station as 85-year-old Rozalia Selato went on her rampage in May 2012, attacking Dorothy Mavis Baum with a chain and hitting another woman with her walking frame.

Ms Baum, 93, was found in her bed with wounds to her arms and face so deep they revealed bone, and she died the next day.

At an inquest on Thursday, South Australian Coroner Mark Johns criticised nurse Latz for leaving bed-ridden residents in danger during the violent incident and not checking on them for hours afterwards.

"You knew she was running around the place acting violently. She had already assaulted others," SA Coroner Mark Johns told the nurse.

"Why were you hiding in the nurse's station with the door locked?"

The nurse said she was not scared of Ms Selato and was in the nurse's station to look after the resident who had been hit with the walker.

But the coroner was sceptical of her account of what happened that night at St Basil's Nursing Home at Christies Beach.

"Are you seriously asking me to believe that you weren't scared?" Mr Johns said.

"You were protecting your own safety, weren't you?"

The court heard Ms Latz eventually restrained Ms Setalo with a hug from behind and held her until ambulance crews arrived.

She was also the first to find the injured Ms Baum but this was not for some three hours after the violent outbreak.

Counsel assisting Amy Cacas was also critical of the nurse for failing to check on patients sooner.

"That is simply unacceptable. It is not good enough. What do you say to that?" Ms Cacas asked.

"I'm sorry," Ms Latz replied after a long pause.

When the nurse discovered the injured Ms Baum, she assumed her injuries were self-inflicted, a conclusion that baffled the counsel assisting.

"She had horrific gouges to her skin, arms and face," Ms Cacas said.

"They were clearly consistent with someone who had been assaulted and not someone who had scratched themselves."

Ms Latz also ordered the room to be cleaned, hampering police efforts to investigate the scene.

The coroner questioned whether the nurse's actions were motivated by an attempt to conceal what had occurred and to avoid responsibility.

"One could draw that conclusion. I could," Mr Johns said.

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