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‘Failures’ led to hospital starvation death

Stewart Kelly, 45, died at Robina Hospital in August last year from starvation and dehydration during a 33-day admission.
Stewart Kelly, 45, died at Robina Hospital in August last year from starvation and dehydration during a 33-day admission.

Queensland’s health authorities have admitted to “significant failings” which led to the “preventable” death of a man with an intellectual disability at a hospital on the Gold Coast.

Stewart Kelly, 45, died at Robina Hospital in August 2022 after being admitted 33 days earlier for an unknown medical condition.

Mr Kelly, who also lived with autism, had developed severe anxiety earlier in the year which affected his eating, and caused rapid weight loss.

He eventually died of starvation and dehydration.

Stewart Kelly, 45, died at Robina Hospital in August last year from starvation and dehydration during a 33-day admission.
Stewart Kelly, 45, died at Robina Hospital in August last year from starvation and dehydration during a 33-day admission.

Mr Kelly’s family expected him to be treated for his mental health issues, but he never received treatment, his family told A Current Affair.

Gold Coast Hospital and Health Service chief executive Ron Calvert on Wednesday said the hospital “should have done better.”

“We acknowledge that there were significant failings in this patient’s care,” Mr Calvert said.

“I do believe his death was preventable and I offer my unreserved apologies to his family for this.”

Mr Kelly’s mother Ann Jeffery told A Current Affair her son “was cheated of 40 more years of his life.”

“I felt the joy had gone out of my life. I felt that he had been left to die possibly because of his disability,” Mrs Jeffrey said.

A Gold Coast Health spokesperson said there had been “significant changes in practice” following Mr Kelly’s death.

“We’re committed to implementing all the recommendations from the (Root Cause Analysis) report and to learning the lessons necessary to better support patients who are neuro-diverse or who have a disability,” the spokesperson said.

“Over the past three years, Robina’s Hospital Standardised Mortality Rate (HSMR) has averaged 99.6 compared to a peer group average of 113.6 (lower being a better result than peer group hospitals).”

The Hospital Standardised Mortality Rate (HSMR) for Robina Hospital for 2023 (up to and including August, which is the latest period for which comparison figures are available) is 79.9, against a peer group average of 100.