Robert Love, who won a case against Bupa St Kilda last year over the inadequate care of his mother in their Cambridge care home in 2016, was flown to Wellington recently to speak with officials about the experience. Bupa St Kilda was ordered to pay $10,000 after failing to adequately care for Mr Love’s 92-year-old mother, Freda, who resided in the home for just under six months before her death in February 2017.
Frustrated by the lack of support he received from the Health and Disability Commission and the Waikato District Health Board when he raised complaints about Freda’s care, Mr Love took the home to the Disputes Tribunal for breaches under the Fair Trading and Consumer Guarantees Act for Bupa’s documented failure to provide appropriate care.
“By going through the Disputes Tribunal, it also meant that the name and location of the rest home could be made public and in a timely manner…in other cases the details may be suppressed, often for years, depriving the public of their right to know,” Mr Love explained.
This lack of support from the health watchdogs was a major topic of the discussions Mr Love had in Wellington during the final week of March, and he said officials from HealthCERT – the Ministry of Health division responsible for ensuring hospitals, rest homes and other clinics provide safe and reasonable levels of service for consumers, as required under the Health and Disability Service (Safety) Act 2001 – were “very receptive” to what he had to say.
As well as calling for a Government lead review of the aged care sector, Mr Love is asking for an urgent review of Waikato DHB’s handling of his complaints, which he maintains lacked vigour and critical thinking as well as leaving concerns about their independence. He hopes to talk with the Minister of Health directly about this soon.
Mr Love’s visit to Wellington comes amid increasing calls for a government enquiry into the rest home sector.
The $10,000 Mr Love was awarded by the Disputes Tribunal has been put into a fund to help others take similar action against rest homes. Administered by Consumer NZ, who have supported Mr Love in his action, the fund has not been drawn on to date, however there has been an additional donation, Consumer advised.
Consumer NZ’s chief executive, Sue Chetwin, said existing complaints processes need to do a better job when consumers raise concerns about rest home care. Rest homes must also face meaningful sanctions when they fail to deliver care to required standards, she added.
Jan Adams, managing director of Bupa New Zealand said, “we accept and acknowledge that Mrs Love’s care was not of an acceptable standard for which we have apologised. It’s important to note that, while in this case the care was clearly unacceptable, the sector cares for many thousands of residents and such incidents of poor care are low. Just as we do today, we’ll always work with Government and regulators to deliver quality care to New Zealanders.”