Bupa St Kilda falls short

A surprise audit has found staff at Bupa St Kilda repeatedly failed to respond to call bells within the expected time frame.

Less than a year after Bupa St Kilda was ordered to pay $10,000 to the son of a 92-year-old woman they failed to provide adequate care for, the Cambridge home was found to be falling short in several areas in a surprise audit in June. Robert Love, whose mother Freda Love was a resident at Bupa St Kilda for 156 days until her death in January 2017, has written to the Minister of Health asking for an urgent investigation into Bupa St Kilda and Bupa’s relationship with the DHB.

The unannounced audit on June 7 found that the Cambridge home was fully meeting only four of the seven criteria that were assessed.

Among other things, the audit found that from January to May of this year staff had repeatedly failed to respond to call bells within the expected three-minute timeframe, with some not answered for more than 20 minutes. Despite this, the chief operating officer and lead nurse for Bupa Villages and Aged Care New Zealand, Carolyn Cooper, maintained that residents’ safety was not at risk. The Waikato DHB had written to Bupa following the areas of shortcoming identified, stating that it “did not find that current residents were at risk or that care was not safe”, she said. “The areas for improvement in the June 7 audit were rated low to moderate risk by the auditor,” Carolyn added. She declined to explain what would happen if a resident was experiencing a significant medical event and calling for help, referring back to her original statement.

A spokesperson from the Waikato District Health Board (WDHB) said the level of risk ascribed to the delays in answering call bells was determined by the independent auditors and accepted by the DHB. “We have determined that waiting for more than 10 minutes is unacceptable, have communicated to the facility that this is a material breach of contract obligations, and that they are required to undertake corrective actions to address this finding.”

The unannounced audit was then followed up by a clinical records review carried out in early July. In that review, an independent clinical practitioner selected five randomised files and spent two days on site reviewing and tracking all documentation relating to those files, however Robert said he believes scheduled audits serve little purpose.  “All audits, to be meaningful, should be unannounced,” he said in his letter to the Minister. It’s a view shared by Consumer New Zealand, the organisation Robert turned to after health and disability watchdogs had failed to rectify the situation.

For their part, Bupa has issued an apology to the residents and relatives of Bupa St Kilda Care Home.

“An external audit on 7 June identified some areas that require improvement. We take these findings extremely seriously and have taken further action to continue to improve quality at the care home,” Carolyn Cooper concluded.

The DHB spokesperson said they have no plans for any more unannounced audits of the facility, instead waiting for the outcome of the certification audit scheduled for October 1-2 this year.

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