Teuila Fuatai

Teuila Fuatai is a reporter for the NZ Herald

Health support group found guilty over disabled man's care

File photo / NZ Herald
File photo / NZ Herald

A health support services organisation has been found guilty of breaching professional regulations after a severely disabled man received inadequate care for nearly three years.

The man's case was taken to the Human Rights Review Tribunal following a complaint to the Health and Disability Commissioner about the poor care he was receiving from his carer, known only as Mrs Z.

According to an agreed summary of facts provided to the tribunal, Mrs Z acted as an agent for the man, referred to as Mr B, during the time Northlink Health was providing services for him.

Mr B has severe cerebral palsy, and requires assistance with all personal cares.

Northlink Health, a not-for-profit organisation which services the Waitemata and Northland district health Board regions, provided disability support services to him from 2005 to 2008.

During this time, his health and living conditions deteriorated, he was left unattended for extended periods, neglected and his mobility became greatly reduced. The tribunal also found management of his pain, and bowel and urinary problems were unsatisfactory.

While Mrs Z was his agent, as a service provider Northlink Health had a duty to ensure Mr B had an appropriate standard of care.

Because they failed to do this Mrs Z was able to take advantage of Mr B, who was vulnerable and in a close relationship with her.

The tribunal found that Mr B was left unmonitored for about two years, with no initial assessment or support plan being completed. Northlink Health also "uncritically accepted" Mrs Z's statements about Mr B, despite being aware of the pair's close relationship.

Northlink Health also failed to properly investigate concerns raised about the relationship Mrs Z had with the carers she employed to look after Mr B.

"It accepted their word that none of them were related to Mrs Z, despite there being obvious information they all had a close relationship."

"It also allowed Mrs Z to countersign the carers' timesheets. Furthermore, the carers' timesheets continued to be accepted unquestioned despite the hours recorded being suspiciously regular," the agreed summary of facts stated.

Northlink Health, which has since merged its services with another organisation, implemented a raft of measures in response to the tribunal findings on Mr B's case.

Its former chief executive, Wendy Hawkings, said these included stricter monitoring of carers and a requirement for all carers to adhere quality and safety measures. Carers were also required to undergo training provided by the organisation, the summary of facts said.

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Mrs Z's conduct while acting as the agent for Mr B's care:

* Asserted she was acting under the Enduring Power of Attorney despite Mr B remaining competent

* Found three carers to provide care for Mr B who were all related to her

* Aided the carers to falsify their timesheets by claiming for hours worked at times when evidence showed they were overseas

Source: Human Rights Review Tribunal

- APNZ

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