March 27, 2010

NEW ZEALAND: Family 'disgusted' by rest home care

. PALMERSTON NORTH, Central New Zealand / Manawatu Standard / Health Care / March 27, 2010 The family of an elderly woman who died at Palmerston North's Aroha Rest Home have broken their silence over what they believe was substandard treatment and want to know why she was not cared for properly. They also want answers as to why Jane Harrison's chest pains were not checked out and why she was left to die alone, undiscovered until rigor mortis had set in. Her death in July last year triggered a complaint from a former staff member to the MidCentral District Health Board, which sent in a Central Technical Advisory Service's audit team that found the Ultimate Care facility in breach of contract on 17 counts. GRIEVING: Tangiora Crawford with a photo of her mum who died at Aroha Rest home. Photo: Murray Wilson/Manawatu Standard Board general manager Mike Grant said he was satisfied almost all of the problems had been fixed, but he was still not satisfied with the standard of Ultimate Care's investigation into the circumstances around Mrs Harrison's death. Ultimate Care executive chairman David Renwick said there were no suspicious circumstances around the death, that none of the shortcomings auditors identified at the rest home would have prevented it, and he strongly denied responsibility for the death. His comments were provided through a public relations firm. The 80-year-old mother-of-17's daughter, Tangiora Crawford, said she believed her mother had died because the rest home didn't take proper care of her. Mrs Crawford had looked after her mother, who had dementia but was otherwise well, at her Palmerston North home since 2001. "It was a struggle, as well as raising four children, but I just loved her. It was my aroha toward my mother, for her aroha to us." She and the whistle-blower, who is also Mrs Crawford's cousin but has asked not to be named, met Ultimate Care operations general manager Ron Spraggon this week, asking for compensation, acceptance of responsibility for the death, and an apology for the way the whanau was treated. They had wanted the extended family to be allowed to come to the meeting to support them. The women said the meeting did not resolve anything, because they were not able to talk to the people who were at Aroha on the night Mrs Harrison died. Those people could have explained what had happened. They have received a written apology about aspects of their communications, and about shortcomings in paperwork on Mrs Harrison's care needs, but Ultimate Care said there were no legal grounds for compensation. Ad Feedback They also pointed to the auditors' opinion that even if things had been different, Mrs Harrison might still have died. The auditors found that documents regarding Mrs Harrison were incomplete or out of date despite her being a regular respite patient. In particular, there was no record of her medical history. She was also sleeping in the rest home wing, when she should have been in dementia care. From their study of documents and statements, it appeared Mrs Harrison had complained of chest pains on each of the two days before she died, but no-one sought medical help for her. The night before she died, both the evening and overnight caregivers saw her in the corridor, but the registered nurse did not check on her. It was after 9am the next day before she was found dead in her room. The auditors said there were gaps in the notes of key staff, which they found "highly unusual". The women said they had contacted the Health and Disability Commissioner's office and intended to file a formal complaint about the standard of care Mrs Harrison received. "When I saw the auditors' report, I was disgusted," said Mrs Crawford. "The standard of their paperwork worried me. "I'm concerned about others. We can't let this happen to anyone else." [rc] © 2010 Fairfax New Zealand Limited