RWNZ windfall to benefit rural communities

Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ) sold its home care organisation, Access Homehealth Limited (Access), to Green Cross Health for $18 million last month and intends to use the money to further enhance its charitable and advocacy work in rural communities.

Access, which had its beginnings in a 1920's bush nurse scheme, provides home health care services to more than 16,000 people throughout New Zealand, including in Otago and Southland, and is one of the largest home care providers in the country, with contracts with DHBs, the Ministry of Health and ACC. Access chief executive Graeme Titcombe said Green Cross Health would continue to provide specialised home-based care and support, as well as funding the organisation's rural scholarships and awards and Access's 4000 staff would retain their jobs.

RWNZ executive officer Noeline Holt said the RWNZ's national council would be meeting in January and would discuss developing the best management strategy for the windfall.

''Rural Women has been around for nearly 100 years and we would like that money to last another 100 years,'' Mrs Holt said.

''They will want to be able to do more for our communities and get the best outcome for them.''She said the women who established the early version of the home care organisation were ''visionary'' in setting up a long-term, stable financial future for the organisation so RWNZ could continue to grow ''dynamic rural communities''.

Access - then called the Women's Division Emergency Housekeeper Scheme - was formed as part of the Women's Division of the Farmers Union (which later became RWNZ) in 1927. RWNZ's history publication ''And So We Grew'' said the WDFU would receive letters from rural families requesting help to look after families and households when women were ill or had to leave home.

As a response, the scheme was established in 1927 and the first housekeepers appointed that same year.

Housekeepers and bush nurses ''with surgical and midwifery certification'' were employed and the division's Community Chest was established to provide or subsidise the housekeepers and nurses' wages. The first government subsidy was paid for home care and support in 1945.

Mr Titcombe said following the 1990 health reforms, which included capped annual funding, major contractual changes and expansion of contracts, the home care schemes of Women's' Division were amalgamated, and in 1999 the combined organisation was renamed Access Homehealth.

The new corporate identity was introduced in 2010.

''We have 4000 staff operating out of 26 branches,'' he said.

''This has grown significantly mainly due to the ageing population and acquiring other home care businesses as Access sought to deliver greater volumes of urban services to assist in offsetting higher cost rural service delivery.''

Support workers and nurses assist their clients with personal care, helping clients with household chores, child care and getting in and out of bed.

''Our staff build up a good relationship with their clients, especially the longer-term ones.

''For some, especially in rural areas, the support worker visit may be the only contact they have all week.''


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