Hospital staff stunned by neglect case

"I can't believe I had eight children and I've ended up in this state," were the words of a dying mother after medical staff found her rotting away in her Napier home, a court heard today.

Joanne Quinn, 51, the woman's older daughter and sole caregiver, was on trial in the Napier District Court, charged with failing to provide the necessaries of life.

Medical staff discovered 82-year-old Maureen Quinn on November 15, 2011 imbedded in a couch and blanket with maggots covering her leg wounds.

She died from bronchial pneumonia six weeks after being admitted to hospital on November 15.

Detective Toni Leppien told the court she interviewed the pensioner the day after she was hospitalised.

She said the 82-year-old described her daily meals as toast for breakfast, a boiled egg for lunch and no dinner.

"There was one time during the interview where I held her hand and she said 'your hand is so warm. I can't remember the last time someone touched me'," Detective Leppien said.

Maureen had lived in her Marewa home for 60 years and raised eight children. She was widowed in 2006 when her war veteran husband died.

Revisiting her in hospital on November 17, Detective Leppien told the court a nurse cleaned a crease in Maureen's neck that was "green and festering".

"She [Maureen] said 'I can't believe I had eight children and I've ended up in this state'."

Joanne Quinn was understood not to have visited her mother in the hospital.

"She [Maureen] didn't expect her to [visit] because they fought a lot," Detective Leppien told the court.

Earlier in the day Joanne Quinn's younger sister, Lisa Quinn, gave evidence about the relationship between her sister and their mother.

Living on the Gold Coast in Australia, the 43-year-old said she visited her childhood home earlier in 2011 for about a week.

She said the family, including two other siblings, had decided their 51-year-old sister, Joanne, would care for their elderly mother at the home.

She recalled the day before medical staff discovered her mother in November 2011.

"I spoke to mum a day or two leading up to hospital. She was crying and in pain and she said she couldn't talk long on the phone."

She phoned her sister shortly afterwards and said she was concerned her mother was in pain and very upset and asked Joanne to call a doctor or she would.

Ms Quinn said her sister lifted the blanket up that night, while her mother slept, and discovered the open wounds and maggots.

During cross-examination Ms Quinn said her mother didn't like to be moved or touched because of the pain and wanted to remain independent.

The court has also heard that the extensive wounds covering Maureen Quinn and the "sense of neglect" had a "stunning" impact on Hawke's Bay Hospital staff.

Expert Crown witness and Hawke's Bay District Health Board chief medical officer Dr John Gommans said the combination of the conditions the 82-year-old presented with was "something I've never seen".

He told the court the pain, wounds, maggots and leg ulcers had an overwhelming impact on the hospital's staff.

He said the extent of the woman's injuries were also a "significant" threat to her life.

"She was undoubtedly suffering from malnutrition."

He said the level of malnutrition would have taken months if not longer, while her skin breakdown and dehydration may have occurred over days.

During cross-examination by Quinn's lawyer Matt Dixon, Dr Gommans said the 82-year-old showed "significant" signs of muscle wastage, nerve damage and heart disease while also appearing "reluctant for help" during a hospital visit in 2006.

During final submissions Mr Dixon said given the inability to assess Maureen's condition, the reluctant nature of her mother and the fact Joanne Quinn called a doctor was evidence she was not at fault for her mother's condition.

Judge Jonathan Down is expected reach a verdict tomorrow morning. Failing to provide the necessaries of life carries a maximum penalty of 14 years' jail.

- By Sam Hurley of Hawke's Bay Today

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