Spot audit of rest home

17:00, Jul 30 2013

Health officials have done a spot audit of the Wellington rest home at the centre of ill-treatment allegations.

Ministry of Health staff visited the Malvina Major rest home unannounced yesterday, after The Dominion Post revealed shocking allegations regarding care.

The audit comes as concerns mount about the treatment of elderly in rest homes, with the widower of a top women's rights campaigner now raising concerns about her rest-home care.

Others in the health sector are calling for mandatory staff training and staff-to-patient ratios, and for improved monitoring of, and reporting on, homes.

Wellington's Malvina Major Retirement Village hospital is investigating complaints that a patient suffering from Alzheimer's disease and a stroke was found covered in her own faeces three times since June 6.

Susan Christian said her 69-year-old mother had received a level of care that was "disgusting" and degrading.


Associate Health Minister Jo Goodhew said the Ministry of Health received a copy of the complaint made to the health and disability commissioner yesterday.

"The ministry is currently undertaking an unannounced inspection of Malvina Major Retirement Village to investigate the allegations and ensure the care provided to all residents is of an acceptable standard."

A report into the inspection would be published in four to six weeks.

Spot audits were introduced in 2009, and summaries of audits were available on the ministry's website, Ms Goodhew said.

The ministry was currently considering how public information on aged-care facilities could be improved, and would report back by the end of August.

Yesterday Pat Shields, widower of Dame Margaret Shields, said the low standard of care seemed to be endemic of profit-driven rest homes.

Ryman Healthcare, which owns Malvina Major, recently reported an underlying profit of $100 million for the last financial year, up 19 per cent on the previous year.

Mr Shields said his wife - who worked tirelessly to make changes in social welfare and health - spent the last month of her life in inadequate care.

She died in another elder care home, Paraparaumu's Eldon Specialist Senior Care Centre, on May 29, after suffering from dementia and Parkinson's disease for the past two years.

Mr Shields said she was often left alone, in obvious distress and confusion. The home was understaffed, and felt "like an asylum", where patients were yelling and screaming while being ignored.

"She was a dame of the nation, this was not what she deserved. They did their best, but their best to me was not good enough."

A family friend, who is a nurse and did not want to be named, said Dame Margaret's care was "despicable" and upsetting. Once she found her half-dressed and shivering by an open door, and another time she was lying in her own excrement.

Her hair was often left unwashed, her food was put where she couldn't reach it, and she was "just not cared for", she said.

Eldon Specialist Senior Care Centre manager Theresa Jones said she was completely taken by surprise by the allegations.

Mr Shields had last been in to see rest-home staff a couple of weeks ago to thank them for the great care his wife received, she said.

Meanwhile, Mrs Christian said Ryman had gone into "damage control" mode, and her mother was now being checked every half hour.

The regional manager had met her to develop a plan for her mother's care. "They've investigated all the accusations and spoken to all staff, and of course they can't believe it actually happened and are bending over backwards to fix the situation."

Ryman Healthcare NZ general manager Simon Challies said Malvina Major's response to Mrs Christian's complaints was unforgivable.

"We are going to finish our investigation [today] and we will take action then."

Malvina Major had a higher proportion of staffing than other villages, he said.

Deputy Health and Disability Commissioner Theo Baker said a total of 118 complaints had been received about rest-home care in the past year, about 7 per cent of all complaints.

This was down from 131 the year before.

They were mostly about falls, hydration, nutrition and pressure wounds.

The Dominion Post