'Horrific' rest home death upsets family

19:13, Sep 24 2012
A photo of Lois Morrison’s hand taken at Wiltshire Lifecare in Rangiora
SAD END: A photo of Lois Morrison’s hand taken at Wiltshire Lifecare in Rangiora. Terminal onset scabies – caused by a mite – is listed as one of the causes of death on her death certificate.

Scabies contributed to the "horrific death" of an 86-year-old woman in a Rangiora rest home which has since been taken over by the district health board.

Sheryle McLean's mother Lois Morrison died at Wiltshire Lifecare Home and Hospital in December. She had been a resident there for more than five years.

The facility is currently under Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) management after an audit was carried out in July on the back of numerous complaints, including poor management of scabies outbreaks.

Terminal onset scabies was listed on the woman's death certificate under cause of death along with hypertension, cardiac failure and old age.

"I feel sick thinking about how my mum died and someone needs to fight for the residents that are in there because it is just wrong," McLean said.

The health and disability commissioner (HDC) has received five complaints about the rest home in the past two years. Three complaints, including one laid by McLean's family, are still being investigated.


The scabies mite burrows into the skin and causes rashes of small, itchy bumps and is highly infectious. It can survive in bedding and furnishings for about 72 hours and is more common in overcrowded and unhygienic environments.

"We know she was old and frail but no human being, not even an animal, should pass away in that state," McLean said.

"It makes me so upset and angry to know that this happened nearly 10 months ago and still nothing has been done."

The CDHB's report on the rest home will be released this week.

McLean said her two Christchurch-based sisters were with Morrison when she died.

"It messed them up seeing her like that and the whole family ended up having to be treated for scabies. They were still itching a month after mum died.

"I visited mum last August and my husband and I opened the door to her room and the smell of urine was just revolting.

"She was sat in bed at 10 in the morning with an incontinence pad on that hadn't been changed and she hadn't had any water."

McLean said she "could not comprehend how neglect like this could happen in today's world".

Documents obtained from the CDHB under the Official Information Act showed the board had received 11 complaints about the facility since 2010.

Corporate services manager Murray Dickson said the complaints related to a range of issues including scabies outbreaks, poor staffing, limited shower use and residents' personal items going missing.

Last month the son of an elderly man who died a day after arriving at Christchurch Hospital with urine scald and bedsores from Wiltshire spoke to The Press about the family's experience with the facility. He said his father's clothes would go missing and there had been more than one scabies outbreak. He intended to file a complaint with the HDC.

The Companies Office register shows Margaret Busby, who owns and operates the Rangiora facility, and her husband Paul became directors of Wiltshire Limited in 2004.

A statement released last night by Wiltshire Home and Hospital read: "Wiltshire Home and Hospital is unable to comment on individual clinical cases but has been working with the CDHB to implement changes in response to a recent audit identifying corrective actions to some aspects in the standard of care provided.

"The company has moved quickly to address concerns raised by the CDHB and to restore confidence among residents, their families and the wider North Canterbury community."

Age Concern Canterbury chief executive Stephen Phillips said he was unaware of any severe scabies cases.

"But that's not to say it hasn't happened . . . I would hope the HDC look into this very seriously and take the appropriate action."

The Press