Aged care advocates say sending heavily-soiled clothes home from hospital for family and friends of sick patients to launder is not an acceptable standard of care.
And they are urging hospitals to do better and offer more options and support for patients - particularly older people.
Yesterday the Herald reported that a Christchurch woman had been lumbered with the responsibility of laundering her ex-husband's heavily-soiled clothing while he was in hospital.
The man recently suffered a stroke and is partly paralysed, incontinent and receiving treatment for a rare terminal cancer at Burwood Hospital.
Dianne Burke revealed she was double-washing his dirty garments at a laundromat each week because no one else - including the hospital - will do his laundry.
Burke, who was married to the man 30 years ago, estimated she had spent $1500 on laundry so far.
One time, she was disgusted to empty out a "full" pair of tracksuit bottoms, which showed he wasn't being changed enough.
"They were absolutely full and untouchable," she said.
"They hadn't even rinsed it out or disposed of it in the toilet.
"That explained why my ex-husband rang me up so distressed the other night. There was
no way I could put that through the washing machine and I believe he was neglected."
Burke said she was on a pension and the cost of doing the man's laundry was crippling.
He had other family or friends who were able or willing to assist or contribute financially to the situation.
The Canterbury District Health Board said laundering services for patients' clothing were not provided in "older person's health wards".
Older persons health and rehabilitation services general manager Kate Lopez said soiled clothing was routinely "appropriately bagged for family to take home" along with information on any "precautions required".
But Age Concern Canterbury chief executive Simon Templeton said that was not good enough.
He said all DHBs in New Zealand had the same policy and sent soiled clothing home with patients' family or friends.
But he called for better practice in some cases.
"For washing to be done by whānau – yes it is reasonable," he said.
"In this case – as reported - if it was heavily soiled, then no, that is not acceptable and falls below the standard we would expect.
"All options should be discussed with patients, and their families - this could be outsourcing washing of clothes which would be at the expense of the patient.
"Options for people with no family or support would need to be investigated and offered."
Health Minister Andrew Little has been approached for comment and is expected to respond to the man's case and situation this morning.