Flanked by staff, Presbyterian Support Otago chief executive Gillian Bremner and workers' advocate Mike Hanifin hold the home-based support service petition yesterday in Dunedin. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Presbyterian church networks are being enlisted to fight the
dumping of Presbyterian Support Otago (PSO) as a provider of
home-based support for older people in the South.
PSO and the Southland provider it hoped to partner for the
new regional service have been dropped by the Southern
District Health Board, which named its three chosen providers
PSO, Disabilities Resource Centre Southland and workers'
association Caregivers and Related Employees (Care) launched
a petition this week calling for the board to rethink the
However, in a statement yesterday, Southern board chief
executive Carole Heatly said the decision would not be
''It is important that vulnerable clients and staff
understand that we will be funding an enhanced and more
''Once we have worked through the process to transfer staff
and clients to the new providers, we will be out and about
meeting with groups and writing and talking to clients to
explain the new service,'' she said.
PSO chief executive Gillian Bremner said the petition was
being distributed to Presbyterian church networks and
throughout the wider community. Yesterday, it was posted to
about 2500 home-support clients in Otago and Southland, who
were under no obligation to sign it, Mrs Bremner said.
Care advocate Mike Hanifin said workers felt they had been
traded in a ''marketplace'' in which they were supposed to
transfer without complaint to a different employer.
Many were encountering worried clients whose concerns they
tried to allay, which was difficult when they felt anxious
themselves, he said.
Support workers Theresa Wedlock, Catherine Jowsey and Lynda
Hurren told the Otago Daily Times they feared for their
clients, but also for the jobs of their immediate superiors,
whose job involved co-ordinating clients and carers.
As ''vulnerable workers'', the trio's jobs were safe, but
they were unsure what they would do. Ms Wedlock said the
transition would inevitably be ''messy'' and, despite
assurances, doubted support workers would retain the same
clients. PSO had invested in staff training and was now
expected to hand over its staff and say ''good-bye'', Ms
For the past decade, PSO had provided the ''restorative''
model the board said it wanted, but Ms Wedlock doubted the
board grasped that.
Mrs Jowsey said the PSO team had an excellent rapport and met
regularly to discuss the work. Each client received a
tailored service, she said.
The provider changes start in March, with a three-month
The annual contract is worth about $5.5 million to PSO, which
is awaiting legal advice about the matter.
One of the three chosen providers, Royal District Nursing
Service New Zealand, is Australian-owned, and has provided
services solely in Auckland.