Christchurch rest-home claims probed

01:43, Jan 31 2009
PROBE: The Canterbury District Health Board is investigating the level of care at the Villa Gardens Home and Hospital in Christchurch.

The Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) is investigating the level of care at the Villa Gardens Home and Hospital in Christchurch.

Two staff members spoken to by The Press detailed several incidents over the past year that they felt had not been adequately dealt with by the Addington retirement home's management.

These included tired and overworked staff members falling asleep on the night shift one time leaving a woman to turn blue on a cold floor for more than five hours and a patient being pushed over by another resident and the victim's family not being told.

The home has been the subject of two Health and Disability Commission complaints in the past year.

Acting Health and Disability Commissioner Tania Thomas said one complaint was resolved through advocacy and no action was taken in the other.

Health board Older Persons Health Service Portfolio manager Nancy Stewart said the board would work with Villa Gardens "to address claims made to The Press about staff retention and performance, as well as concerns about resident safety".

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"It is important to give Villa Gardens the opportunity to clarify their situation," she said.

"If problems are identified, the CDHB will work alongside the provider to identify how they can be resolved."

A routine audit in January last year had resulted in "findings", and since then Villa Gardens had been required to supply evidence of how these were being addressed, Stewart said.

"However, in light of the recent issues raised, we will work with Villa Gardens to understand what, if any, current issues there may be," she said.

The Press made an official information request to see the home's audit, but it has not yet been made available.

Two staff members said they decided to speak out after seeing the image of an Auckland rest-home resident with her mouth taped shut last month.

One staff member had gone to the health board with concerns about Villa Gardens, but was given the "runaround" and did not lodge a formal complaint.

Understaffing and a high workload meant staff were tired and stressed, and some would fall asleep during the night shift, leaving the residents unattended, the staff members said. Incidents had been documented from a year ago, but nothing had been done.

This year a female resident was found blue from cold on the floor at 7.30am, with the last recorded check at 2am, despite rostered hourly checks.

The staff members said residents were sometimes left on toilets for up to an hour, despite ringing for assistance, and the high workload meant terminally ill patients were not always turned regularly.

"If you don't turn terminally ill residents they end up with massive pressure sores and that alone can kill them," one said.

In June, a woman was pushed over by a fellow resident and broke her hip.

A staff member said the family had been told the woman would be removed from the dementia unit, but four weeks later she was still there.

After inquiries to the home about this patient on Monday, The Press learned she was moved on Tuesday.

Family members were told their mother had fallen over her walker and cracked her head, when in fact staff had witnessed another patient push her but were told not to say anything.

The chief executive ElderCare, which owns Villa Gardens, Peter Leathem, said the network had investigated the allegations and the initial findings were that some issues had been resolved and that "some incidents are without validation".

Leathem said ElderCare took the allegations "extremely seriously" and would like further details of some incidents so it could investigate further.

Age Concern Canterbury chief executive Andrew Dickerson said the organisation had received some complaints about Villa Gardens over the past year.

Some were minor and were taken directly to the home, but one was serious enough to take to the health board.

"We have had some concerns expressed to us about the standard of care and I have discussed them with the CDHB," he said. "I understand they are looking into it."

Dickerson said rest-home audits should be made public, as they often were overseas.

"A rest home providing a high standard of care has nothing to fear from it," he said.

The Press