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Quality Care Vital For Frail Consumers

The importance of aged residential care facilities providing support that consistently meet the needs of the elderly residents they are entrusted to protect was highlighted in a decision by Deputy Health and Disability Commissioner Rose Wall.

Ms Wall says, "this case highlights the challenge of trying to determine with sufficient certainty what has occurred when the voice of the consumer is not present. We are left unable to know, from the consumer’s perspective, what has happened and how they were impacted. In situations like this, there is a collective responsibility to ensure there are sufficiently robust safeguards in place within aged residential care facilities to protect frail consumers".

In her decision, Ms Wall found Mercy Parklands Limited in breach of the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights (the Code), for failing to provide health services with reasonable care and skill. Ms Wall reinforced the importance of aged residential care facilities accurately recording the needs of elderly people, and ensuring care plans and supporting documentation are kept up-to-date to guide the provision of quality care that upholds the dignity and respect of its residents.

A man in his eighties was admitted to hospital-level care at a care home operated by Mercy Parklands Limited. The man had a complex medical history of dementia, vascular disease, stroke, left-sided muscle weakness, skin cancer, prostate cancer, and nerve damage. Ms Wall’s decision considered the inadequate level of care provided to the man over an extended period, resulting in the development of pressure injuries and weight loss that may have been preventable, and incidents involving healthcare assistants relating to the man’s safety.

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Ms Wall concluded Mercy Parklands, "had a duty to provide services to the man with reasonable care and skill. This included responsibility for the actions of its staff, and an organisational duty to facilitate reasonable care".

"Taking into account the man’s comorbidities and his general state of health, he would have benefited from having a comprehensive care plan in place that was regularly reviewed and amended in response to any change in his presenting symptoms. This would have helped to ensure care was consistently delivered by all staff," says Ms Wall.

"We must ensure there are systems and checks in place to provide layers of protection for our elderly people, who frequently present with multiple co-morbidities and complex health conditions.

"These safeguards can encompass many elements; including the organisation’s staff recruitment strategy, its training and staff development programme, its policies and procedures, and to ensure provision of consumer-centred care that uphold the rights of its consumers.

"I am pleased to see that people have taken heed of what has happened in the past. There has been conscientious effort invested by the care home and its staff to ensure safe and empathetic care is provided to its residents," says Ms Wall.

Ms Wall recommended that Mercy Parklands report back to HDC on its corrective actions, and conduct an audit of skin integrity and wound care documentation. She further recommended that Mercy Parklands and both healthcare assistants provide a written apology to the man.

The full report of this case will be available on HDC’s website. Names have been removed from the report to protect privacy of the individuals involved in this case.

The Commissioner will usually name providers and public hospitals found in breach of the Code, unless it would not be in the public interest, or would unfairly compromise the privacy interests of an individual provider or a consumer.

More information for the media and HDC’s naming policy can be found on our website here.

HDC promotes and protects the rights of people using health and disability services as set out in the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers' Rights (the Code).

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