Service declined: union

The quality of a Dunedin service supporting the most vulnerable elderly people in their own homes deteriorated after Presbyterian Support Otago (PSO) was dumped as service provider, a carers' union says.

Figures from the Southern District Health Board show about a third of clients who transferred from a special PSO pilot scheme that allowed them to stay at home had since entered residential care.

Caregivers and Related Employees union advocate Mike Hanifin said visits to clients were shorter, the service was disorganised and the relationship between carers and employer Access Homehealth was strained.

''It just isn't at the same level. It's a big step backwards.''

The Rural Women New Zealand-owned provider said it was trying to address the concerns, and any transition to a new provider was bound to have teething issues.

Mr Hanifin said that during the transition to the health board's new home care service issues arose in PSO's former pilot programmes, which ran an intensive support service.

The new provider for high-support clients on the Taieri had addressed teething problems without acrimony, Mr Hanifin said.

In contrast, the union found it difficult to engage with Access.

Carers were required to cut visits short by about 10 minutes to fit travel time into rostered hours, reducing time with clients.

Rostering was disorganised, some clients missed out on scheduled visits and carers did not feel able to raise concerns. Access chief executive Graeme Titcombe acknowledged there were ''issues around the perception around Community First''.

Access was trying to resolve the issues, he said. Managing travel times meant using resources in the most sensible way.

No transition period could be incident-free, Mr Titcombe said.

''There is no doubt that when you have a group of high-needs clients like Community First there will be more issues that arise from that.''

Community First clients received their old service, for now, but would be formally reassessed in due course. No new clients were placed on the programme.

''Community First does not exist anymore. It doesn't. There is a new model of service and Community First is nonexistent,'' Mr Titcombe said.

Southern District Health Board health of older people portfolio manager Sharon Adler said by email: ''The service is not of lower quality''.

''This restorative model of care provides a flexible service and no longer operates an allotted time for visits,'' she said.

The board had dealt with two complaints from Community First families since the provider switch-over started in March. They related to missed carer visits, and issues with Access' helpline number and its complaint resolution system.

''One of these complaints has been investigated and corrective measures have occurred. The second complaint is still under investigation,'' she said.

Forty-seven Community First clients transferred to Access and 28 remained. Most of those who were discharged had entered residential care, although the exact number is unclear.

- eileen.goodwin@odt.co.nz

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