A paid personal carer from Queensland by the name of Michelle Leanne Stitt was granted bail yesterday on charges that included causing grievous bodily harm and severely neglecting a 77-year-old woman that was in her care.

Ms. Stitt is alleged to have failed to provide the elderly woman with the necessities of life for more than three weeks across the month of May, resulting in the 77-year-old being admitted to intensive care, which police believe she may not fully recover from.

The elderly woman was rescued from Ms. Stitt’s ‘care’ at a Tampara property two weeks ago when ambulance officers discovered the 77-year-old in a state of cardiac arrest and extremely low body temperature – which raised enough suspicion for them to alert the authorities.

The Tampara property where the 77-year-old was found was also home to a number of severely neglected animals, and hygiene in the home was so poor that police had to enforce bio-hazard measures to investigate the home due to unsafe levels of animal faeces.

Prosecutors argued against bail as the court heard Ms. Stitt had been previously convicted for committing an offense against a person in her care in 2007, but the exact details of the offence were not disclosed.

Magistrate David Shepherd granted Ms. Stitt bail after agreeing that the “unusual circumstances” of her alleged offence’s meant that it was unlikely to reoccur while she was on bail, and he then went on to say that if Ms. Stitt stayed in custody until the matter was finalised, the length of time could end up exceeding any sentence that Ms. Stitt is given.

Meaning, that if she does indeed end up going to jail for her alleged crimes, we shouldn’t hold our breath hoping to see a lengthy sentence.

As part of her bail conditions, Ms. Stitt is not allowed to enter any care arrangements or contact the alleged victim, but given the fact that she was convicted of an offence against someone in her care previous to these alleged crimes, it seems like any sanctions she is now receiving are too little and too late.

Not Fit For Children, But Fit For The Elderly

In 2015, Ms. Stitt attempted to gain a “blue card” which would have allowed her to work with children and give riding lessons at a local pony club, but Stitt’s application was knocked back by the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) due to her conviction in 2007.

In dismissing Ms. Stitts appeal, QCAT member Susan Gardiner stated that they were concerned that Ms Stitt could not set boundaries or understand the idea that boundaries were needed in certain situations, and she then went on to express that the risk involved with issuing Ms. Stitt a “Blue Card” outweighed any other factors.

While the decision by QCAT to not provide Michelle Leanne Stitt with the opportunity to work with children should definitely be applauded, it also highlights the stark contrast in value that is currently being placed on the welfare of elderly and disabled people when compared to the welfare of children.

Caring About Who Can Deliver Care

Unfortunately, the welfare and protection of elderly and disabled people in Australia is not currently held to the same lofty standards that we expect for children in this country, and that can be evidenced by everything from the lack of staffing ratios, through to the highly inadequate prison sentences for people who commit crimes against them.

Nurses who care for the elderly and disabled members of the community must be licensed by The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) which ensures that all nurses meet a minimum standard of education, and also allows prospective employers to adequately check their nursing work history.

But carers, who make up the majority of staffing numbers in both aged care and disability, are not subjected to the same level of scrutiny – and this has many calling for carers to be classed as health professionals and held to a standard involving both licensing and registration.

Annie Butler, Federal Secretary for the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, spoke with HelloCare earlier this year and outlined her thoughts on potential licensing of carers in the aged care industry.

“The ANMF has a long-held position that care workers in the aged care industry should be licensed,” said Annie.

“The system that AHPRA runs, and there is a national law that sets out the regulation for all health professionals, the key purpose of that is the protection of public safety, so that’s what you’re trying to achieve when you license a worker, and there are increasing calls for this, especially since the announcement of the Royal Commission.”

 

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