Upset PSO workers want answers

Presbyterian Support Otago workers are upset about the Southern District Health Board's decision to dump the organisation as a provider for home-based care, with (front from left) Catherine Jowsey, Sheryl Stevenson, union organiser Mike Hanifin and Theresa Wedlock among those who attended a meeting to discuss the issue yesterday. Photo by Jane Dawber.
Presbyterian Support Otago workers are upset about the Southern District Health Board's decision to dump the organisation as a provider for home-based care, with (front from left) Catherine Jowsey, Sheryl Stevenson, union organiser Mike Hanifin and Theresa Wedlock among those who attended a meeting to discuss the issue yesterday. Photo by Jane Dawber.
Care workers at Presbyterian Support Otago (PSO) say a decision to dump the organisation as a provider for home-based care services has left them and their clients facing an uncertain future.

This comes as the Southern District Health Board (SDHB) this week confirmed it would drop PSO and instead partner with Healthcare of New Zealand, Access Homehealth and Royal District Nursing Service New Zealand to introduce a new model of care for home and community support services across the Southern district.

It also announced PSO staff would be transferred to one of the new providers. Home-based care workers Catherine Jowsey, Sheryl Stevenson and Theresa Wedlock, who were among about 40 staff who met in Dunedin yesterday to discuss their options, all felt SDHB had left them out of the loop in making the decision.

They said PSO and its about 400 staff working in home-based support were offering a good service and could not understand why it had been dumped.

''We have spent years building the service to what it is and I think people just want to know why it was dumped,'' Ms Stevenson said.

They said the decision left them facing an uncertain future, despite the fact they had been told they would keep their jobs.

''Apparently, we will still have jobs, but as yet nobody knows who is taking us over ... [and] we don't know what the conditions of those jobs will be,'' Ms Wedlock said.

Many of their clients were also upset by the decision, she said.

''A lot of the clients that do understand what is going on are just absolutely disgusted. They just don't understand why SDHB would dump Presbyterian Support for no apparent reason.''

Caregivers and Related Employees (Care) union organiser Mike Hanifin said its members, who made up most of the staff who met yesterday, did not want to lie down and accept the decision.

''They want the union to organise and campaign to get the DHB to reconsider and at least put in a fourth provider, so that more of the resources will stay in the local area,'' Mr Hanifin said.

Actions the union could take included picketing Dunedin Hospital when the board was meeting, he said.

SDHB Allied Health executive director Lynda McCutcheon, who was part of the selection process, said last night PSO staff would still be employed under the same conditions.

''We have gone above and beyond what was required and, as part of the tender documentation, they are required to be transferred on the same conditions that they have now.''

The DHB was confident in the three providers it had chosen and there was no need for a fourth, she said.

PSO said earlier this week it was seeking legal advice to challenge the board's decision to dump the organisation as a home support provider.

- vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz

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