A FRAIL 81-year-old woman was left sobbing after soiling herself in a South Fremantle shopping centre car park last week because she couldn’t get to a public toilet.
Fremantle resident Dom Mariani had planned a pleasant coffee date with his mum, whisking her away from her White Gum Valley nursing home on Wednesday for a breath of fresh air after a recent hospital stay.
But when the elderly pensioner suddenly needed the loo, Dolce & Salato cafe staff told them their staff toilet was being renovated, and it wasn’t for public use anyway, pointing them to the nearest public WC over 100 metres away near Woolworths.
“As the situation was quite desperate, we did plead with the staff and my mother even pleaded in Italian to one of the Italian speaking staff members, but we were ignored,” says Mr Mariani, famous for fronting 80s band The Stems.
He says they tried hot footing it to the public toilet, but didn’t make it in time.
“I had to spend the next half hour to 45 minutes helping mum clean up in the disabled toilet with her sobbing and crying,” he says, describing the incident as disarming and distressing.
Mr Mariani says his mum is taking medication that causes diarrhoea and she’s not very mobile, relying heavily on her walker to get around.
Dolce & Salato manager Alba Venturini says because of the construction and insurance issues, her staff had no option but to refuse the Marianis’ request, but says they’re already in the throws of installing a public toilet in response to complaints from customers that there’s not enough available in the area.
“Even if I wanted to help them for the emergency they had, I couldn’t. It’s not our fault there is no toilet facility near us, and that is the real problem. Someone could have an emergency anywhere along here.”
Mr Mariani complained to the council, but it backed Ms Venurini’s view.
“It’s very unfair because if they slip on the floor we have an open kitchen and we wouldn’t be covered from insurance at all,” says Ms Venturini.
She says in the past she has allowed children or pregnant women to use the staff toilet, but “it’s not safe out the back in the middle of building and everything”.
Mr Mariani says the issue was further soured because staff initially said the toilet was broken, but when he demanded an inspection, it turned out to be functioning ok.
The council says only shops with more than 20 customers and employees need to provide public toilets and it can’t put them up on privately-owned land.
by MOLLY SCHMIDT