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21 October 2019

St Kilda rest home breaches consumer rights

Multiple failings in care but no financial penalty for rest home.

Multiple failures in the care provided by St Kilda rest home to 92-year-old Freda Love have been found in an investigation by Deputy Health and Disability Commissioner Rose Wall.

Results of the investigation, released today, come more than two years after Consumer NZ’s report on problems at St Kilda, a Cambridge rest home owned by Bupa Care Services.

Ms Wall’s investigation found the home breached the code of consumer rights and describes multiple deficiencies in care including lack of knowledge and skill in managing Mrs Love’s indwelling catheter, failure to follow the care summary plan, and failure to get specialist assistance for wound care.

Robert Love, Freda Love's son, successfully took Bupa to the Disputes Tribunal and won a $10,000 refund.*
Robert Love, Freda Love's son, successfully took Bupa to the Disputes Tribunal and won a $10,000 refund.*

On one occasion Mrs Love’s son, Robert Love, arrived at St Kilda to find her shivering under a thin blanket in a urine-soaked bed. Her room was cold, the window wide open and the call bell out of reach.

While Mrs Love was at high risk of developing pressure sores, it took the home four months to seek specialist assistance for a sacral wound. Several nurses reviewed the wound but didn’t make a referral to a wound care specialist “in a timely manner”.

Mr Love, a Consumer NZ member, repeatedly raised concerns about the care provided to his mother while she was a resident at the home from August 2016 to early 2017. “Although Bupa acknowledged and apologised for these failures of care, and did so in writing through multiple letters, this did not lead to any material improvement in her care,” he said.

Mr Love paid an extra $52 a night for his mother to have a premium room, believing she would receive a higher standard of care but that proved not to be the case.

In 2017, he successfully took Bupa to the Disputes Tribunal and won a $10,000 refund.* The tribunal found Bupa misled Mr Love about its ability to provide the care his mother required and breached its obligations under the Consumer Guarantees Act to provide services with reasonable care and skill.

As a result of her investigation, Ms Wall recommended Bupa apologise to Mr Love. She also recommended Bupa provides evidence to the Health and Disability Commissioner (HDC) that registered nurses and caregivers at St Kilda are trained in indwelling catheter care, and considers whether staff training on communication with family members is required.

However, Mr Love said he wasn’t interested in another apology from the home and described the recommendations as “meaningless”.

“Bupa’s care of my mother was dangerous, incompetent and continuously dishonest … will anyone in a Bupa care facility within New Zealand be at less risk as a result of this report? I do not think so,” he said.

The case highlights ongoing problems with rest home care and the investigation of complaints. Not only can complaints take considerable time to investigate, financial sanctions are rarely imposed on homes when they fail to meet standards.

Mr Love’s complaint to the HDC took two years to investigate. Despite repeated failings in providing services to Mrs Love with reasonable care and skill, Bupa is not facing any financial penalty.

We’ve previously called for an independent inquiry into the rest home sector to ensure standards deliver consistent, high-quality care. Financial penalties should be the norm when homes fail to meet standards of care.

*Mr Love donated this money to Consumer NZ to establish the Freda Love Fund. The fund helps consumers take complaints against rest homes to the Disputes Tribunal.

Freda Love died in February 2017 at Waikato Hospital.

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