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Topic # 132293 16-Oct-2013 11:02
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Hi guys,

I just wondered if anyone could point me to the relevant legislation on this?

My mum lives at a resthome, and they have been opening mail addressed to her, reading the contents, resealing the envelope and delivering it to her room. When she challenged this they said they do it all the time!
In this particular case it was a letter from the hospital with details of an appointment date & time. But for all they know it could have been anything, including private information.
I believe they know they are doing wrong otherwise why would they bother resealing the envelope?
The mail in question is addressed to her personally, including her room number, so I see no legal defence for them being able to open it.

Any help appreciated.




The views expressed by me are not necessarily those of my employer Chorus NZ Ltd


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  Reply # 915952 16-Oct-2013 11:30
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I would assume not, however worth checking whatever contract you/they have with the rest home as they may have a term in there that gives them authority to do it.

I don't know the status of your mum (people can be in rest homes at very varying levels of mental and physcial capability), but back when my grandma was in a rest home she had dementure so the nurses did exactly what you described.
They opened her mail to make sure important stuff didn't get missed (like hospital appointments) but then resealed it and devlivered it to her room so she felt like she was maintaining a feeling of independence by opening her own mail.

They definitely asked permission from my parents (who had power of attorney) to do it though.

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  Reply # 915955 16-Oct-2013 11:32
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Doesn't seem right, unless they've been granted some kind of power of attorney to do so.

 
 
 
 


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  Reply # 915956 16-Oct-2013 11:33
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I would say No way!



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  Reply # 915967 16-Oct-2013 12:05
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Thanks guys,

I just found the relevant passage in the Postal Services Act 1998:

 

23 Unlawfully opening postal article

 

 

(1) Every person commits an offence against this Act who wilfully and without reasonable excuse opens or causes to be opened any postal article that is not addressed to that person.

 

 

 

(2) Every person who commits an offence against subsection (1) is liable on conviction to imprisonment for not more than 6 months or a fine of not more than $5,000.

 

 


As I am power of attorney, and my mother is fully compos mentis (can think for herself) the resthome has no mandate to open her mail. I have now sent a strongly worded letter to remind them of this.




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  Reply # 915970 16-Oct-2013 12:08
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There could easily be a clause that allows caregivers authority.

As NonprayingMantis said, there is definitely a need for it in some/many cases. That doesn't automatically make it necessary or right in this case.

I'd just ask them straight out about it. Obviously be reasonable about it. If they aren't doing anything wrong, they'll no doubt discuss it, and tell how they're allowed, and why they do it.




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  Reply # 915971 16-Oct-2013 12:12
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Wheelbarrow01: Thanks guys,

I just found the relevant passage in the Postal Services Act 1998:

23 Unlawfully opening postal article (1) Every person commits an offence against this Act who wilfully and without reasonable excuse opens or causes to be opened any postal article that is not addressed to that person. (2) Every person who commits an offence against subsection (1) is liable on conviction to imprisonment for not more than 6 months or a fine of not more than $5,000.
As I am power of attorney, and my mother is fully compos mentis (can think for herself) the resthome has no mandate to open her mail. I have now sent a strongly worded letter to remind them of this.


I think the key phrase here is "without reasonable excuse"

Have you looked through the agreement signed when your mother was placed into care, you may find that it refers to accepting the "terms and operating conditions" of the rest home, - and buried in the T&C there may be a "we open mail" clause.......

Not saying its right, just that they may have covered themselves against any potential action...

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  Reply # 915974 16-Oct-2013 12:23
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If you are unhappy with the situation, ring your local District Health Board and ask to be put through to "Planning and Funding", once re-directed ask for the "Health of Older People Portfolio Manager". Speech marks are due to my generalisation about the name of the department and role.

This person manages the contracts the DHB has with the rest home and generally has some reasonable power in resolving issues.

Hope this helps,

Jon

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  Reply # 916045 16-Oct-2013 14:29
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Personally, and I'm not a lawyer, I don't think you can T&C your way out of something like this.

My understanding is that the basic principle is that the law over-rules T&Cs. They may is is covered in the 'without reasonable excuse' but I doubt the T&C itself would constitute reasonable excuse.

Personally, again, I think it is disgusting and deserves a 'strongly worded' letter.




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  Reply # 916053 16-Oct-2013 14:37
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IANAL, but wouldn't it depend on the agreement with the resthome, as they are the care givers. You should do what we did, and get all the mail sent to yourself, to then take into her when you visit. You can also check the mail yourself for important things. The rest home probably do it so things don't get missed, as many people in rest homes aren't capable of looking after themeselves, which is the reason they are in there, and many are very forgetful.

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  Reply # 916087 16-Oct-2013 14:59
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Many resthomes will offer this, but the ones I've dealt with will stop doing it if you ask. It's a great help to those residents who, for whatever condition, can't properly manage their own mail. Speak to the manager, ask them to stop.




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  Reply # 916089 16-Oct-2013 15:00
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Email sent to the resthome....

 

Dear xxxx,

It has been brought to my attention that an employee or employees at X Resthome have been opening and reading mail personally addressed to my mother from Christchurch Hospital. Their defence for doing so was that they feel the contents of the letter may have been relevant to X Resthome. This was based on no more than the Health Board logo appearing on the envelope. I wonder if you have instructed your staff to also open her letters from IRD to ensure she still has the means to pay your exorbitant fees?
Rest assured that if the resthome needs to know any information provided by Christchurch Hospital, either my mother - as a fully compos mentis resident, or myself - as power of attorney, will provide it to you. The letter which was opened could have contained personal records or information regarding any member of my family (not just my mother), and as such, no resthome employee has any authority or mandate to open such correspondence. I refer you to Section 23 of the Postal Services Act 1998 which states:

 

23 Unlawfully opening postal article

 

  • (1) Every person commits an offence against this Act who wilfully and without reasonable excuse opens or causes to be opened any postal article that is not addressed to that person.
          (2) Every person who commits an offence against subsection (1) is liable on conviction to imprisonment for not more than 6 months or a fine of not more than  $5,000

 

Please advise all X Resthome staff to cease and desist opening any mail personally addressed to my mother immediately. Any further infraction will result in Police being called to investigate. I take privacy very seriously and I am appalled at the actions that have been taken by X staff.

Yours sincerely,
Simon xxxx
Son and Power of Attorney for xxxx xxxx




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  Reply # 916093 16-Oct-2013 15:03
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Too much detail which makes it seem a bit emotional (IMHO).

I'd write this...

It has been brought to my attention that an employee or employees at X Resthome have been opening and reading mail personally addressed to my mother from Christchurch Hospital.

I refer you to Section 23 of the Postal Services Act 1998 which states: 23 Unlawfully opening postal article

 

  • (1) Every person commits an offence against this Act who wilfully and without reasonable excuse opens or causes to be opened any postal article that is not addressed to that person.
          (2) Every person who commits an offence against subsection (1) is liable on conviction to imprisonment for not more than 6 months or a fine of not more than  $5,000 Please advise all X Resthome staff to cease and desist opening any mail personally addressed to my mother immediately. Any further infraction will result in Police being called to investigate. I take privacy very seriously and I am appalled at the actions that have been taken by X staff. 




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  Reply # 916110 16-Oct-2013 15:19
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Wow, that email really seems quite over the top, in my opinion only.

As described above, there seems to be a pretty reasonable need for the staff to do this for certain residents, do you know for sure that it was happening with all items of mail or was it a one off? If a staff member is sitting there with 100 pieces of mail for 50 residents of varying capability it wouldnt be hard for one item to be opened in error.

I understand that you are unhappy about it happening at all, and in fact I would be too, but I think it would have been a lot fairer to give the organization the chance to confirm their position before sending something worded as above.

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  Reply # 916136 16-Oct-2013 15:30
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Wheelbarrow01: my mother - as a fully compos mentis resident


Has your mother explicitly asked them to stop yet? If she still has her wits about her she may not want you jumping in with hobnail boots.



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  Reply # 916140 16-Oct-2013 15:32
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This is just the latest in a string of incidences that have occurred since she moved in, so I guess you could say my tone reflects the contempt I feel for this organisation.

Things like "Oh you can't eat fish? Sorry, we don't have anything else to give you so you can just have a plate of mash for dinner", especially when fish seems to be on the menu at least 5 or 6 meals a week.

A 'maintenance man' walking into her room unannounced at 10pm while she was sleeping, and then scaring the sh*t out of her when he woke her as he banged about the room. I am still waiting for an explanation on that one. Who needs to do maintenance at that time of night?

A 'test & tag' man coming to ensure all her electrical items were safe without notice, then her receiving a $120 bill for it. I understand the need to test everything, but a warning about being charged for it might have been courteous.

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