Rest homes are about to be subjected to another layer of scrutiny. The treatment of residents in privately owned rest homes will soon be monitored by the Ombudsman.
The changes, gazetted by Justice Minister Andrew Little, amount to a “major expansion” of the work carried out by the Office of the Ombudsman, according to Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier.
“The new designation will enable the Ombudsman to monitor and inspect privately run care facilities where there are dementia units and where people, often the elderly, are detained because of their vulnerability,” says Boshier.
The changes come after a spate of incidents involving sub-standard care has been brought to the public’s attention by the NZ Herald.
New Zealand Aged Care Association chief executive Simon Wallace has defended the sector.
“The vast majority of providers are doing an extremely good job of caring for the more than 35,000 elderly citizens living in some 600 aged residential care facilities around the country,” Wallace told INsite earlier this year.
He says change is needed, but adding another watchdog is not the solution.
“We already have a rigorous and effective regulatory system with the Ministry of Health’s HealthCERT, the local district health boards (DHBs) and the Health and Disability Commissioner (HDC) – all of which have the authority to investigate facilities at a very high level.”
Instead he advocates for a review of the cumbersome HDC complaints process, and the elevation of aged care to a ministerial portfolio.
Wallace says rest homes, particularly smaller facilities, would struggle to cover the costs of another layer of inspections.
The finer detail is yet to be discussed between the industry and the Ombudsman.
“My sense is everyone will welcome it,” Boshier told Newsroom of the changes. “You have followed anecdotes of incidents that have occurred in privately-run dementia units that have not been good but I don’t think we really know the facts efficiently to know if we have a substantial problem and I think this will tell us. It will open a door and shine a light.”