St Andrews Village nursing home in Ballina.
St Andrews Village nursing home in Ballina. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

Nursing home murder accused faces pre-trial

TWO nurses, a doctor and a medical expert will be cross examined at the pre-trial hearing of the woman accused of murdering two residents of a Ballina nursing home.

The four witnesses could influence the trial of Megan Haines, who is accused of killing Marie Darragh, 82, and Isobella Spencer, 77, by injecting them with fatal doses of insulin in May last year.

Ms Haines was employed as a nurse at St Andrews nursing home in Ballina at the time of the deaths.

She observed yesterday's hearing at the Lismore Local Court via video link from Silverwater women's prison in Sydney.

At stake in the hearing is the question of "negligence" in procedures at St Andrews, which could cloud the case against the accused.

Ms Haines' solicitor Michael Blair cited a failure by staff to administer timely blood glucose level tests on the two victims and a lack of communication between medical staff in relation to "advanced care directives".

Another crucial issue was the timing and amount of the deadly insulin overdose, which remained unknown.

Disputing this, the prosecution argued events surrounding the deaths couldn't have "broken the chain of causation" between the accused administering the dose of insulin and the deaths of Ms Darragh and Ms Spencer.

Magistrate David Heilpern said potential "gross negligence" by medical staff was unlikely to be a factor but still warranted investigation.

He said the trial was likely to be "very lengthy" and involve the calling of dozens of witnesses.

"The audit trail of the insulin is likely to be a key issue," he added.

Earlier the prosecutor unsuccessfully sought to silence media coverage of the hearing, arguing the cross-examinations could cause "significant harm" to the professional reputation of staff at St Andrews and "considerable distress" to current residents' family and friends.

But Mr Heilpern noted this was a significant murder case involving a member of the medical fraternity and the public interest was best served by an open and transparent hearing.

He said issues which created discomfort or reputational damage for those involved in the case was "collateral damage".

"To make a non-publication order would mean that public interest in open justice is denied," he said.

The hearing continues on December 1.

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