Simon Collins

Simon Collins is the Herald’s social issues reporter.

Cutbacks after veterans' home sold spark inquiry

Ranfurly Village resident Shirley Torrie pictured in her room in the older part of the care home. Photo / Chris Gorman
Ranfurly Village resident Shirley Torrie pictured in her room in the older part of the care home. Photo / Chris Gorman

A trust that sold off a 100-year lease of Auckland's historic Ranfurly veterans' home has called in an outside expert to review the quality of care the veterans are now receiving.

Families of some of the 83 residents say the new owner, Queenstown property developer Graham Wilkinson, has cut activities and left the residents with little to do.

"Where are the activities? There was just nothing," said Zora Feilo, whose 76-year-old father is in the dementia unit. "I took it upon myself to take my dad out, but shouldn't there be a programme on the wall?"

Loretta Helleur, whose father has been in the same unit since March, said staff took down photos of previous activities such as fishing trips that used to hang on the wall and there were no such trips now.

The Ranfurly War Veterans Trust, which sold a 100-year lease of the 2.7ha site to Mr Wilkinson last year, stood on the sidelines when staff protested two months ago against Mr Wilkinson's plans to cut caregivers' wages by $2000 to $5000 a year by making existing staff redundant and rehiring them at lower rates through a new company.

But yesterday, trust chairman David McGregor said the trust had called in an external expert to undertake a "detailed review of standards" of care once most residents move into a new $11 million building opened by Prime Minister John Key on October 4.

Trust chief executive Michael Martin acknowledged that standards had fallen since the trust ran the facility.

"We were way above best practice. We had swimming practice, we had film clubs, we had tai chi. It's gone from about 10 out of 10 to about 7 out of 10, and that 7 is pretty much what you get in a standard rest home anywhere."

He said the trust had an agreement with Mr Wilkinson to maintain standards while replacing the rundown old buildings. Most of the existing facility, apart from the historic original building, is being demolished to make room for a 180-unit retirement village in a $100 million development, including a new 60-bed rest home and hospital that the trust could not have financed by itself.

The trust retains the land, receives ground rent of $203,000 a year and gets a percentage of the sale of retirement units.

Mr Martin said the trust used part of that income to subsidise daily doctors' visits to the home and would consider paying for more activities if necessary.

Mr Wilkinson said he had reduced activities for a minority of residents who benefited from most of the activities before he came, but had put more resources into developing individual activity plans for every resident.

"We are moving from entertaining to engaging with you and working with you to achieve your goals," he said.

Resident Shirley Torrie, 89, said there were "no trips to go on at the moment", but a diversional therapist visited her every day and encouraged her to get involved in activities such as music and a form of dominoes called triominoes.

Ranfurly Home

• Established for veterans at suggestion of Governor Lord Ranfurly in 1904.
• Run by Patriotic and Canteen Fund Board for many years, then by Ranfurly War Veterans Trust.
• 100-year lease sold to developer Graham Wilkinson last year.
• $100 million, 180-unit retirement village planned.

The Herald wants to hear your experiences of New Zealand rest-home care. Contact Simon Collins, (09) 373 6473, simon.collins@nzherald.co.nz, or Martin Johnston, (09) 373 6400 ext 98204, martin.johnston@ nzherald.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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