8 Nov 2017

Calls for investigation into health watchdog

From Nine To Noon, 9:09 am on 8 November 2017

A consumer watchdog is calling for an independent inquiry into resthome care, including its staffing, funding and complaints processes.

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Photo: 123RF

It follows a Disputes Tribunal case which ended with it ordering Bupa Care Services, which runs the St Kilda Care Home in Cambridge, to pay Robert Love $10,000 compensation for failing to deliver reasonable standards of care to his 92-year-old mother.

Freda Love was a resident at the home in 2016 and required hospital-level care.

Her son paid extra for her to live in a premium room, but the services provided were not up to the standard promised and he ended up paying for a dehumidifier and air-conditioning unit for the room.

On one visit to the home, Mr Love arrived to find his mother shivering under a thin blanket in a urine-soaked bed. Her room was cold, the window was wide open and the call bell out of her reach.

The Disputes Tribunal found Bupa misled Mr Love about its ability to provide the level of care his mother required and breached its obligations under the Consumer Guarantees Act.

Mr Love told Nine to Noon he repeatedly raised his concerns with the Waikato District Health Board, the Health and Disability Commissioner and the Health Ministry.

However, he said he had only one reply, which was from the DHB, assuring him there was no need to take the matter further.

"They advised they had had correspondence with Bupa and been reassured by what Bupa told them, that it had addressed those failings that might have existed.  

"They've apologised for the failings and that's cleared the slate.

"Frankly it's woefully inadequate. It doesn't clear the slate and it's basically a sweeping of it under the carpet and [a] 'there's nothing to see here, just move on' type of response."

Mr Love said Bupa sent him four letters of apology at different times, but some came weeks and months after the events he complained about.

Complaints processes need overhaul

Jessica Wilson from Consumer New Zealand told Nine to Noon the Love case appeared to be the first of its kind, where a resthome has been ordered to refund money paid for services that were not delivered.

She said many users of aged care would not be in a position to take that sort of case and the regulatory processes and the way complaints were dealt with must be improved.

"Those processes need to work better.

"Existing complaints mechanisms need to be responsive and not glacially slow like they are at the moment and there needs to be meaningful sanctions where a home has not delivered its services."

Ms Wilson said not every complaint was investigated and just because a complaint was made did not mean action would be taken.

"It's time for a real look at the way we fund aged care, the way we staff it and a workable complaints process for consumers needs to be a priority as part of a review of the resthome industry."