A watchdog group which found most rest homes are falling short of standards has been accused of failing to understand how healthcare regulations work.
Consumer NZ issued a report last week which found fewer than 10 per cent of rest homes fully complied with health and disability standards.
Facilities identified in the report as having recurring problems were Mt Albert's Aranui Home and Hospital and Epsom's Rossmore Rest Home in Auckland.
Three facilities owned by the Cressida Group were also singled out. In Auckland, the group's Lady Alice Rest Home in Remuera and Eversleigh Hospital in Belmont were found to have serious failings of care.
In one incident at Eversleigh, a resident's daughter was seen asking the registered nurse why her mother was "sleepy and blue", Consumer NZ reported.
A Health Ministry inspection report stated the nurse did not know why the resident was blue and had to be asked why the oxygen concentrator next to her wasn't in use, despite the resident needing continuous oxygen.
Cressida's Mercy Jenkins Care Centre in Eltham, Taranaki was also identified as falling short of care standards.
Under the Health and Disability Services (Safety) Act 2001, health services are certificated to operate based on how well they achieve against 60 standards.
The Consumer NZ report, which drew on 634 audits conducted by the Ministry of Health since 2007, found 61 per cent of rest homes had shortfalls that were more than minor, while three per cent had major shortfalls.
Of the core service delivery standards, only 18 per cent of rest homes met all the criteria and 55 per cent partially met the criteria.
The report noted the audits had called for "significant action" in the case of the 16 homes which had major shortfalls, which were defined as failing to meet one or more of the standards.
New Zealand Aged Care Association, which represents residential care providers catering to the elderly, said Consumer NZ had fundamentally misunderstood how the healthcare regulations worked.
Chief executive Martin Taylor said providers did not need to fully meet all standards and it was "totally incorrect" to suggest failing to attain all 60 standards meant a rest home was providing poor care.
"A health service does not have to fully attain all standards before they are safe to operate because the standards are not a floor - they are a very high ceiling, which is why only 10 per cent of aged care providers have reached this goal and why no government-run hospitals have ever done so."
However, Consumer's Jessica Wilson said Mr Taylor's comments failed to address the ongoing problems with elderly residential care in New Zealand.
"We stand by our findings. What we found was that there is a high level of rest homes not meeting core criteria.
"These are criteria which are basic to what rest homes are meant to do - they're about assessing residents' needs [and] they're making sure residents get appropriate care."
Better information around elderly residential services were needed in New Zealand, Ms Wilson said.
"At the moment, the Ministry of Health only publishes what are called 'summary audit reports' which don't provide full information about the shortfalls in rest homes [and] what they're required to do to address those shortfalls."
Rest homes which received an "adverse report" - often due to an "unannounced inspection" following a complaint - were also given a clean-slate after the next round of audits, Ms Wilson said.
This made it particularly difficult for people trying to find a suitable and safe rest home, she said.
HEALTH AND DISABILITY SERVICES STANDARDS:
Minimum safety standards for rest homes, hospitals and providers of residential care cover six main areas:
* Consumer rights
* Organisational management
* Service delivery
* Safety and appropriateness of the environment
* Infection control
* Restraint minimisation
Source: Ministry of Health
REST HOMES WITH RECURRING PROBLEMS:
- Aranui Home and Hospital: Facility is under new management and is being monitored by the Auckland DHB. Says all major corrective actions have been completed.
- Eversleigh Hospital and Lady Alice Rest Home: Facilities are under new management. Says required corrective actions have been completed.
- Mercy Jenkins Care Centre: Being monitored by Taranaki DHB. Required corrective actions expected to be completed by August.
- Rossmore Rest Home did not respond to Consumer NZ.
Source: Consumer NZ