The man who outed a Health and Disability Commissioner's expert as having a conflict of interest in the review of his late mother's care, is calling for an investigation into what he says is systemic bias.

However the claim has been slammed by Health and Disability Commissioner [HDC] Anthony Hill as "baseless".

Robert Love is challenging the HDC over its ongoing investigation into the rest home care of his late mother after what he calls a cascade of failings in the case.

Late last year Love wrote to the HDC raising concerns about its independent adviser, aged-care expert Rhonda Sherriff, who was investigating his complaint.

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Love alleged Sherriff had conflicts of interest in the case including:

• She did not disclose she was a board member of New Zealand Aged Care Association, alongside Jan Adams, the managing director of Bupa New Zealand, the company that runs the rest home being investigated;

• She provided a "helpline" service, in part for care home owners with difficult residents that Love concluded was to assist rest home owners to manage and respond to complaints;

• And she was a board member of Careerforce, a commercial company that provides training and services to Bupa.

Love claimed to the HDC that Sherriff's report into his complaint was biased.

"Throughout her report a narrative is developed that seeks to portray me as holding unreasonable expectations for the care of my mother.

"As such it implies I was difficult and unreasonable to deal with and contributed to the failings of care by undermining staff confidence."

But Love said his only expectation was that "Bupa would provide competent, basic nursing care, that they would be honest and truthful and not subject her to abuse and neglect".

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Robert Love wants accountability for those in charge of St Kilda Care Home in Cambridge where his elderly mother was left to soil herself. Photo / File
Robert Love wants accountability for those in charge of St Kilda Care Home in Cambridge where his elderly mother was left to soil herself. Photo / File

Freda Love, 92, died in Waikato Hospital in February 2017 after she had earlier lived at the Bupa New Zealand-operated St Kilda rest home in Cambridge.

Love took the case to the Disputes Tribunal where he was awarded $10,000 against Bupa for a failure to provide a reasonable level of care.

He outlined to HDC deputy commissioner Rose Wall in November why Sherriff's report should be concerning, including that it excused senior management, allegedly made false statements, and failed to recognise care workers were untrained and inexperienced.

Wall replied saying the HDC was no longer relying on Sherriff's report.

Yesterday Hill hit back at Love's claims of systemic bias through a spokeswoman.

"The Commissioner utterly refutes any claims of this nature which are baseless and simply not supported by the facts."

She said the HDC placed high value on its independence and impartiality.

"We take any perception of conflict of interest in relation to our independent expert advisors extremely seriously."

When the Herald revealed Sherriff's apparent conflict of interest she resigned and the HDC said it would review all 22 cases she had provided reports on between March 2017 and October 2018.

"We found no evidence that indicated a lack of balance or bias in the advice provided."

Rhonda Sherriff in 2003. She said last year she could not comment on a complaint of a conflict of interest but she resigned from the HDC. Photo / File
Rhonda Sherriff in 2003. She said last year she could not comment on a complaint of a conflict of interest but she resigned from the HDC. Photo / File

HDC contacted the parties involved in those cases, informing them there could be a potential conflict of interest.

Eight of those cases were closed with the Commissioner making either educational comment or recommendations for change.

In one complaint the provider was found in breach of the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers' Rights and referred to the Director of Proceedings.

That was in the case of dementia sufferer Piri Hemi, whose caregiver was caught on camera slapping and hitting the elderly man at Cascades Rest Home in Hamilton.

The other cases where Sherriff provided advice were at various stages of assessment or investigation.

The HDC hired a new adviser and in a small number of cases continued with the existing advice with consent from those involved in each complaint.

It also revised Guidelines for Independent Advisors to provide additional information about managing potential conflicts of interest.

Love said he wanted Bupa held accountable for his mother's treatment and a transparent investigation.

"The system is broken. Unless we recognise the truth ... we leave vulnerable the people who are in these care homes."