Piotr Mierzejewski is concerned about aspects of his home
support service. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
A disabled Dunedin man says he was left to fend for
himself when his support agency did not send a reliever to
cover a carer's illness.
Piotr Mierzejewski (37) has arthrogryposis multiplex and is
in a wheelchair. He had to call on family and friends to help
him one Saturday last month, when Access Homehealth did not
send a carer for three of the four daily visits.
''If it weren't for the help, I would be stuck essentially. I
would be the equivalent of a beached whale.
''I was a little bit flabbergasted ... finally someone turned
up [from Access] about 20 past 7 [at night].
''I had to basically fend for myself.''
He said he was lucky to have a strong support network of
family and friends, but he did not think they should be
called upon, especially at short notice. He was concerned
about vulnerable clients who did not have a strong network of
The service allowed Mr Mierzejewski to live independently and
hold down a part-time job in the energy sector. His
disability affected him around the clock - not just during
business hours - and service quality should not deteriorate
Mr Mierzejewski believed the service changed when Dunedin
Home Support Services, his old provider, was bought by
Access. Last month was not the first time a visit had been
missed since the provider change about a year ago.
''Every time I hear that one of my helpers is going to be
sick, or they're going to be away, I'm expecting the next
shoe to drop.''
He no longer dealt solely with Dunedin-based staff; sometimes
phone calls went to other centres.
Some pastoral care elements of the service changed; senior
staff formerly gave advice about relationships and other
matters, but now the system was more impersonal.
He had also discovered his case notes contained incorrect
Mr Mierzejewski has complained in writing to Access.
Responding to the Otago Daily Times, Access chief
executive Graeme Titcombe said support worker illness could
cause difficulties, especially at weekends.
''This would be compounded where multiple visits are due on
the same day, thereby substantially limiting the time
available to find suitable relief workers.
''In such an instance our highest priority is the ongoing
safety of the clients. Where a delay in putting in a relief
worker is indicated, we liaise with the client in regard to
natural supports available [family and friends].
''If such natural supports are not available, and if client
safety is at risk, we would utilise other emergency
procedures [such as] emergency nursing staff.''
The telephone system defaulted to another centre when Dunedin
co-ordinators were on calls, Mr Titcombe said. After hours,
including weekends, calls went to a national call centre.
''Should clients not want to take advantage of these features
and only liaise directly with the Dunedin office, direct dial
numbers are made available,'' he said.
Access would respond directly to Mr Mierzejewski about the
specifics of his complaint, Mr Titcombe said.