Contract shock for PSO

Gillian Bremner.
Gillian Bremner.
Presbyterian Support Otago (PSO) has suffered a ''huge shock'' from being dumped as the provider of a $5.5 million annual contract providing home-based services to older people, chief executive Gillian Bremner says.

The Southern District Health Board is rationalising home-based support services in Otago-Southland, and wants fewer providers.

''It feels like a bereavement in the family ... so I'm upset,'' she said.

The board is introducing a ''restorative'' model to try to enhance client mobility and activity.

''We've pioneered the restorative service with a reluctant DHB for many years. The staff actually provide a fantastic service,'' Mrs Bremner said.

PSO, with Disabilities Resource Centre Southland (DRCS), had hoped to secure a sizeable part of the new service. The two paired up to provide the Otago and Southland-wide service sought by the board planned to start midway through next year.

Together, PSO and DRCS accounted for 42% of the board's home-support service.

''Obviously, losing a sizeable DHB contract means that the overheads related to that will no longer be necessary. The impact on the whole organisation is significant.''

It was too early to state the extent of the ''significant structural reviews'' that would result.

Mrs Bremner understands three providers have been chosen for the service. PSO was on a short list of six.

Affected staff were expected to secure jobs with the new providers, serving the same elderly clients.

Elderly clients should not be worried, because they would still have their service, she emphasised.

Successful tenderers will be named later this week by the board, which yesterday declined to comment before the announcement.

The district health board accounted for the vast majority of PSO's home support work. It also delivers home support for the Accident Compensation Corporation, and the Ministry of Health.

Nearly 400 staff were employed in its home support division.

''[Home support is] not the only thing that we do in Presbyterian Support, by any means, but it's a large part of what we do.''

She had not been advised why the bid was unsuccessful, but understood she would receive feedback on that today.

''I'm not sure what else we could have done to demonstrate we wanted to be part of it.''

The multimillion-dollar contract helped support the infrastructure for PSO's wider work, which includes social supports for vulnerable people. However, profit margins from home support were slim, she said.

Disabilities Resource Centre Southland general manager Debbie Webster said there was ''disbelief'' the centre had missed out on the service it had provided for 13 years.

The contract was worth between $2 million and $2.5 million a year. The service covered isolated areas such as Stewart Island, and Tuatapere, and the centre had built strong local relationships over the years. Up to 200 staff were affected.

The situation created uncertainty for clients, she said.

Home support covers a raft of services, including shopping, food preparation, medication management, personal care, house-cleaning and general household management.


With this decision the Southern District Health Board has elected to show it is morally bankrupt.

Restorative twaddle

I find it hard to believe the SDHB is promoting a 'restorative' model for our older community members when they appear to be intent on taking things away from them. Yes, their support workers may go work for another provider and they may still be able to receive the same services, but the relationships they have built with PSO and DRC co-ordinators and nurses will be gone and they will have to start over, which may cause some people a lot of stress.
The SDHB needs to rethink this. What is wrong with giving people more choices? What is wrong with people being able to stay with the provider they chose in the first place? Surely the costs won't be much, if any, higher? The SDHB funds the services people receive and it doesn't matter who the provider is, those costs remain the same.
Next you will be telling us that the successful provider(s) is from outside the SDHB area. If so, do you really think the people of Otago and Southland are going to stand for that? We support our local organisations who have a history of providing quality services in our areas, and you should support them too.  Come on SDHB, time to 'restore' these valuable and chosen organisations.


Contract loss

It greatly disturbs me that they choose to announce this decision a week before Christmas.  Do they not realise this time of the year is hard enough not only for the elderly involved but also the just-above minimum wage workers who provide such a great service to our community?
It would be very interesting to see the criteria the board chose providers on. My bet it comes down to who can do it cheapest. I attended a few of the meetings involved with this change and one very vocal participant pointed out that it is a Rolls Royce package with Ford Fiesta funding.
Both Southland and Otago protested over the potential neurosurgery loss; I would be interesting to see if they will do the same for loss of these well respected providers. [Abridged]


PSO contract

I'm devastated to read this. PSO is part of the history and fabric of the southern community identity,and this is why many clients choose their wonderful services.

I feel that this is also denying southern clients the right to choose a provider who fits their cultural heritage.

I will also predict that other agencies will struggle to find staff in the smaller areas as where people may work with PSO because they trust and know the organisation as part of their community they will not feel the same "fit" with others.

A very short sighted decision and I hope it can be contested. 

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