Mother neglected in final year of her life

A man who failed to get action from health authorities after his mother was neglected at a rest home has scored a major victory by winning a landmark consumer case.

The case leaves other rest homes open to similar claims if relatives are unhappy with care.

In one of many incidents, Robert Love found his 91-year-old mother Freda lying in a urine drenched bed shivering in her premium room at the Bupa owned St Kilda's Care Home in Cambridge in 2016.

Freda died in February 2017 but in her final years required hospital level care so Love paid for a premium room for his mother with extra support. But in the bed incident her room was cold, the window wide open and the call bell out of her reach.

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Love documented 14 instances where there was serious failure in providing care for his mother. Love received four written apologies and assurances it wouldn't happen again - but it did.

He took his concerns to the Waikato DHB and the Ministry of Health to no avail.

So in a final bid, he took St Kilda Care Home to the the Disputes Tribunal and won.

The tribunal found Bupa misled Mr Love about its ability to provide the level of care his mother required.

It also found Bupa breached its obligations under the Consumer Guarantees Act to provide services with reasonable care and skill, and breached the terms of its contract with Love.

In its decision, the tribunal ordered Bupa to refund Love the $8100 he'd paid for his mother's premium room, and compensate him for travel and other expenses he'd incurred as a result of efforts to remedy shortfalls in the care provided to his mother.

Love hoped the case would encourage more families to take their rest home complaints to the tribunal and hopes a regulatory body would be considered by the new Government. 

"What I'm calling for is some party, could be the Minister of Health, or some other independent authority to now look at this situation and address it. This is not something that has just occurred it's been happening for years," Love said,

"There is a very cosy relationship between the providers of residential care and the regulating authorities that issue the contracts."

The case sets a new precedent for other families going through similar circumstances.

Head of Research for Consumer NZ Jessica Wilson said the Disputes Tribunal can hear cases where health services have not been provided.

Wilson said the key for lodging a complaint was to be prepared.

"The main thing is getting your evidence together and compiling good evidence to support your claim... He was not seeing any improvements in her care so that's why eventually he decided to go down the Disputes Tribunal route," she said.

"If there are other people in a similar situation they are welcome to contact us and we will be able to provide support where we can."

Grey Power National President Tom O'Connor encouraged people to take complaints further.

"I absolutely support those that go down this track of going to the Disputes Tribunal.

"There are a few horror stories out there we know but they are by far in the minority, most rest home places and retirement villages do a pretty good job with limited resources we work with them and the Government that the standard of care is where it should be."

Love said finding his mother in that state was a "devastating" experience.

"That's why I eventually resolved that I needed to get an independent credible assessment of what BUPA's performance had been like and why I continued down the route of taking them to the Disputes Tribunal.

"I am grateful to the tribunal for its decision. The findings of the tribunal provides a credible, independent assessment of Bupa's woeful performance in their provision of care."

No-one from Bupa would be interviewed but the company said in a statement it regretted the incident, had apologised to the Love family and was working on "better practices and policies".

 - Stuff