National changes to rest home fees

What began as a local battle on behalf of residents at rest homes has resulted in national changes.

National negotiations between the 20 district health boards and the NZ Aged Care Association began last year after complaints to the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board about double dipping on accommodation charges.

Concerns were raised by Blenheim resident Peter Bruce after it was suggested his father's rest home was double dipping on accommodation costs from residents who had purchased licences to own units.

Negotiations have now concluded and the preliminary changes have been announced. A final report is expected before July 1.

At a NMDHB meeting in Nelson on Tuesday, a report from chief executive John Peters stated that as a result of national negotiations there will be an amendment to the Aged Related Residential Care contract, an attachment to the agreements between provider and resident to be signed by both parties, and a guide for DHBs on providing advice to residents or prospective residents in Licence to Own agreements.

The NMDHB sent three Marlborough residents, including Mr Bruce, a letter informing them of the decisions.

Mr Bruce, who has been involved in a three-year battle over the matter, was not overly impressed with the changes.

"I'm totally underwhelmed. It's good for people in these circumstances, not excellent, just good.

"But it just misses the mark for me."

Mr Bruce said when he read his letter carefully, the changes appeared to only apply to those residents who received subsidised care.

Unlike the report presented at the NMDHB board meeting, in the letter sent to him the second amendment referred to residents "eligible to a rest home subsidy".

"So, if you're unsubsidised the agreement doesn't stand, the rest homes can charge whatever they like because it's a private agreement," Mr Bruce said.

When asked about the difference, NMDHB service director for community-based services Peter Burton said the agreement would still affect those residents who were not subsidised.

"We would have been better to have put `eligible for rest home care' [in the letters]," he said.

He said he would contact the three Marlborough residents who were sent letters to explain the miscommunication.

Mr Bruce said he was contacted by Mr Burton on Wednesday evening by email.

"He changed the wording to 'once the resident is receiving rest home level care'.

"I give [the changes and interaction with the DHB] a five out of 10, that could go up if the hospital board act on this promptly."

Mr Bruce said although it was good to have that clarification, he was not impressed by the error.

After three years of contention, to receive a letter that needed correcting was unacceptable, he said.

The Nelson Mail