Woman living with disability left unchecked for two days in Auckland before being found dead

By Sarah Keszler of 7news.com.au

A woman living with a disability was found dead after being left unchecked by support workers for two days.

Ruth Finau, an intellectually disabled woman living in supported accommodation provided by Spectrum Care, was left unchecked for two days before staff discovered her dead in bed. Photo / Supplied

Ruth Kathleen Toka, 30, was discovered at her support accommodation in South Auckland a day after staff first found her lying in bed and thought she was sleeping.

coroner has found that staff did not attempt to wake her, fearing she would be “angry” due to a history of aggressive behaviour and left.

When she was still lying in the same position the next day, they discovered she had died.

Toka, also known as Ruth Finau, was supported by Spectrum Care who would cook meals, clean and provide medication, including epileptic and diabetic medication, daily to Finau, who also had an intellectual disability.

Coroner Tania Tetitaha criticised the standard of care Finau received, finding she died suddenly from sudden unexpected death in epilepsy in July 2021, and that she had not had her medication.

“The post-mortem report shows Finau was not taking her anticonvulsant medication,” Tetitaha said in her findings.

“I have concerns about the standard of care Finau received whilst resident at Spectrum Care services.”

Tetitaha said there was no formal monitoring being undertaken to make sure Finau was taking her medication, and said evidence indicated staff were “reluctant to actively monitor Finau due to aggressive behaviour”.

“Due to fears of aggressive behaviour, staff also allowed Finau to remain in her room unchecked for two days between 18 and 20 July 2021,” she said.

“Given she had epilepsy and was known to be at times medically non-compliant, regular physical checks on her welfare should have been undertaken.”

Spectrum’s communication and marketing manager Justin Walsh told New Zealand Media Entertainment (NZME) that Finau had been strongly committed to managing all aspects of her life, including her medications, and that no one can be forced to take their medication in the absence of a compulsory treatment order.

Finau’s brother Jonathan Toka told NZME his sister’s death was “shocking” and that the corners findings had contradicted those of Spectrum Care, who had told his family his sister had died of natural causes.

Spectrum Care services were encouraged to undertake an internal audit of their care of Finau, with the coroner referring the case to the Health and Disability Commissioner.

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