Mosgiel group subcontractor

Home support provider Access will subcontract some work to Mosgiel Abilities Resource Centre (Marc), the only provider under the new regime to undertake subcontracting.

Wellington-based Access chief executive Graeme Titcombe said the organisation's tender to the Southern District Health Board included the subcontracting.

Marc is one of 17 existing providers, which will reduce to three from next month after a controversial health board decision that eliminated Presbyterian Support Otago (PSO).

Marc was expected to provide about 80,000 hours of home support work a year under the arrangement.

Access had also bought Dunedin Home Support Services, in a bid to build its southern workforce, Mr Titcombe said.

''We just believe this is a more efficient way of getting a transition [of workers].''

Mr Titcombe warned the new bulk-funded regime did not guarantee pay rises for care support workers.

Access paid carers between $14 and $16 an hour. Carers received 30c a km for mileage to attend clients' houses. The Inland Revenue Department's recommended mileage rate for reimbursed employees is 77c a km.

''I have spent the last 10 years of my life fighting through the New Zealand Home Health Association for funding to increase support workers' wages. This, in itself [a change of service model], isn't going to increase them,'' Mr Titcombe said.

''Yes, wages are deplorable. You're not going to see a sudden increase just because we've changed the model.''

However, it was hoped bulk funding enabled increased use of technology, which could improve efficiency and allow pay increases, he said.

Mr Titcombe said Access and Healthcare NZ would initially carry out most of the rural work while Australian-owned Royal District Nursing Service New Zealand (RDNS) established itself in the South.

''From a provider point of view, it is also dearer to deliver in the rural [areas], so we would expect [RDNS] to take a share of the rurals over time.''

The three providers are expected to work together closely to develop the new ''restorative'' service.

Information on the health board's website shows RDNS will provide services in Dunedin, Invercargill and western and northern Southland. Clients have been transferred to new providers but can switch at the end of the transition period on July 1 if they choose.

Access is expected to take PSO's 64 Community First clients, the most fragile group of clients affected by the change.

''Our intent is to disrupt the clients as little as possible.

''We would like as much as possible to have the same support workers come across from Presbyterian Support and some of their supervisory staff as well,'' Mr Titcombe said.

An RDNS spokesman contacted in Australia by email declined to disclose carer pay rates and did not reply to emails asking whether New Zealand and Australian carers would have pay parity.

Healthcare NZ said in a statement it was offering transferring carers the same terms and conditions they had with outgoing home support providers, but the statement did not respond to questions about pay rates.

- eileen.goodwin@odt.co.nz

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