My name is Charli Maree Darragh and I am the daughter of a victim of the current aged care system.
My mother Marie Terese Darragh was murdered in her sleep by a nurse at the St Andrews Nursing Village in Ballina NSW back in 2014, and I am not ashamed to admit that I’m not ‘over it,’ because I probably never will be.
My mother’s killer was a woman by the name of Megan Haines who started her career as a nurse in Victoria 19 years ago, and despite the numerous complaints, allegations and blatant warning signs over the 13 years leading up to my mother’s death, she was still able to take the most important person in my life away from me.
Megan’s career began in the year 2001, where one year after arriving on Australian shores from South Africa, she managed to register as a nurse in Victoria.
It was revealed in the Herald Sun, that in the first 6 years of Megan’s career, she had already managed to accumulate a number of serious complaints.
These complaints ranged from failing to care for a patient in Box Hill Hospital, to threatening to access patient information at Maroondah Hospital.
She was also reported for slapping a patient at Caulfield Medical Centre and even at this point, somehow, the alarm bells were not ringing loud enough.
In 2008 the allegations began to get even more serious when Megan became the focal point of suspicion for an incident that involved two elderly patients who had been drugged with insulin and had their jewellery stolen.
Until finally in February of 2008, The Nursing Board of Victoria had seen enough and stripped Megan Haines of her nursing registration.
Her reign of terror should never have gone on that long, but it did. And sadly being deregistered was only a speed bump on her road of evil.
After the watchdog system for health practitioners moved from a state to a federal model, Megan Haines made another bid for her registration in 2012 through the former Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA.)
And unfortunately for my mother and a number of other people, this bid was somehow a successful one.
By 2014 Megan had managed to find herself a nursing position at the St Andrews Nursing Village in Ballina NSW, and within six shifts of work, she managed to murder two innocent people and destroy the lives of many others.
My mother Marie happened to be a resident at St Andrew’s, she was generally healthy at the time but she required care because she was going blind.
My nickname for mum was ‘my little angel,’ because although she was my mum she was also my best friend. She was a funny little bugger who wanted nothing more than to live to the ripe old age of 100 so she could receive a letter from the queen.
I called mum every day, but one particular day when we spoke she complained about the new night-nurse at her facility and how this person was not treating her or the other residents with care.
This new nurse was rough, she pushed, she was swearing at mum and she was known to leave residents waiting on the toilet for hours before ‘helping’ them back to bed.
Mum also told me that she accidentally soiled herself while waiting hours for help to use the toilet, help that never came. But when this nurse did finally arrive she gave my mother a cold shower at 4.30am as punishment for dirtying the bed.
I was in the Northern Territory when mum shared this devastating story, I was babysitting my grandchildren and nursing the effects of a bad ear infection.
I felt helpless at that point in time and the only advice that I could give mum was to tell the Director of Nursing at the facility and that I would be there as soon as I possibly could.
A few days later, my mother Marie, and fellow resident Isabella Spencer decided that they had enough mistreatment and made formal complaints about the night-nurse, and this nurse’s full name happened to be Megan Haines.
It was 10.30pm on May 9th when Megan Haines learned that she was at the center of yet another investigation, and her anger increased as she ripped open a letter containing the written complaints from mum and others.
And just as you would expect from a truly evil and selfish person, she reacted in a way that was meant to hurt and destroy.
Megan Haines went straight to the medical room within St Andrews and loaded up a syringe with 150 units of insulin. The average person can only have 9 units per day.
She then took this syringe and ventured into my mother’s room where she lay asleep in her bed, she injected mum, and then went to the next room and did the same thing to Isabella Spencer.
Mum and Isabella were brain dead within an hour and died not too long after.
Two frail and vulnerable elderly women killed because they wanted to be treated like humans, by the person who was being paid to look after them.
I broke down when I got the news the following day.
I was screaming, I was crying, I was inconsolable and irreparable.
Mum and I spoke in the weeks prior to her death and made plans for her to come and live with me, we kept it a secret, and I whispered these plans to her as she lay lifeless in the bed next to me and while I begged her to wake up.
Megan’s actions that night simultaneously ended my mothers’ life and threw me and my family into a downward spiral that we are all still recovering from.
I attempted suicide on multiple occasions, and the severity of my grieving had a major impact on those around me.
My kids and I no longer speak, and there are multiple fractures throughout my family caused by the issues surrounding mums death.
A death that I blamed myself for.
I thought that If I had not told mum to complain, there’s a good chance she may still be alive.
But upon reflection I began to learn that this was not my fault, it was Megan’s, and the system that allowed her to continue.
My mother’s murder serves as a horrible example of a system that values quantity over quality.
And this Royal Commission needs to be the crossroads where we decide to choose people over profits, and there are big changes that need to be made if we want to make it count.
Firstly, there should be CCTV in every damn room in aged care facilities. If there had been, my mother and Isabella may still be alive.
Any good nurse, carer or facility should have no objection to having this extra layer of safety if they’re delivering care in the right way.
Mandated staff ratios are also a must.
They are required in childcare and in hospitals, so why aren’t the elderly afforded that level of safety and transparency?
And lastly we need better accreditation and processes regarding the aged care workforce.
My mother should not have been murdered because Megan Haines should not have had the opportunity to kill her.
Surely the first one or two incidents were a great enough indication that this person was not fit to look after another human being.
But somehow the cracks in the system saw APHRA release this predator back amongst the most vulnerable people in our society.
My mother did her best to teach me how to stick my chest out and be resilient, and for the past four and a half years I have tried to pass this message on to the countless victims and families of aged care abuse and neglect, that I have been in contact with over the years.
I have spent countless hours sitting beside my mother’s grave and vowing to do my best to ensure that what happened to her would not happen to another elderly person in this country.
I now choose to view my mother’s death as a sacrifice that was made to draw attention to the inadequacy of the system that allowed Megan Haines to kill her, and the amount of injustices that occur within aged care facilities on a daily basis.
The Australian government has a responsibility to ensure the safety and wellbeing of its elderly people and now is their chance to actually stand up and make this notion a reality.