Editorial: Praise for public audits

The Ministry of Health has done the public a service by starting to publish on its website the HealthCert audits of rest homes.

Similar audits of public and private hospitals have not been opened to the same level of public scrutiny, which is unfortunate.

The rest home audit reporting system, similar to Education Review Office reports on schools, is loaded on the website cert.moh.govt.nz and is easy to follow.

It is also easy to find by googling "certified providers of hospital and rest home services".

None of the rest homes in Marlborough get a gold star in all areas of their audits, but most of them are right up there for care and management.

The website reveals there was a surprise inspection at the Springlands Lifestyle Village, in Blenheim, in early September, after a relative of a resident complained about low staff levels, nutrition, medication and pain management, consumer rights, communication and response to emergency situations.

The audit found that the rest home only partly met ministry requirements in 21 criteria, ranging from "minor shortfalls" to more serious shortfalls. There were none at the serious end.

The concerns raised cover areas such as staff training and paperwork, including all 13 policies in one particular folder that were three years overdue for review.

But there were also problems in the clinic area. The audit report says an outbreak of gastroenteritis was evident in six of seven patients reviewed, but had not been acknowledged by management, and no information on prevention or treatment had been given to patients, staff or visitors.

While this is likely to be upsetting for people such as the relative who laid the complaint, the audit has not highlighted any hair-raisingly bad practices or lapses. Springlands owner Chris Thornley says all the findings have been addressed and a clinical consultant brought in to help maintain the standards required.

This is not a finger-pointing exercise. No-one is named in these audits. The intention is clearly to fix the problem, rather than lay blame on any particular person.

It seems a good process that is reassuring for anyone with a relative in care, and doubly so with the sun able to shine on the audit results and the remedies.

The Marlborough Express