Community rallies behind heart patient

Concerned Dunedin resident Sue Harvey speaks to HealthCare New Zealand Dunedin manager Graeme...
Concerned Dunedin resident Sue Harvey speaks to HealthCare New Zealand Dunedin manager Graeme Martin on behalf of Cliff Rodger in his Northeast Valley flat yesterday. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
An elderly Dunedin man's cry for help after life-saving surgery has touched the hearts of Otago Daily Times readers. Nigel Benson gets to the heart of the matter.

Offers of help flooded into the Otago Daily Times yesterday, after our report highlighting the plight of Cliff Rodger (86).

Mr Rodger feels he has been abandoned by the Southern District Health Board since being discharged from Dunedin Hospital last week following a heart attack.

''The head surgeon said I'd get three hours of home help a week, until I got back on my feet. But, now all they're offering me is one hour a week. It's elderly abuse and it's corrupt,'' Mr Rodger said yesterday.

He said he had declined an offer from Southern District Health Board service provider HealthCare New Zealand for one hour's housework a week, because it was inadequate and did not cover the basics, such as washing clothes and dishes.

Friends visited him on Monday to wash a large pile of dirty dishes and he paid a laundromat to clean his clothes.

Opoho resident Sue Harvey was moved to visit Mr Rodger in his Northeast Valley flat yesterday to offer a hand.

''My 91-year-old father is also recovering from surgery and our family have encountered the failings of the system ourselves,'' she said.

''The one-hour cleaning they provide is no more than lip service. It's the least of the tasks that needs to be done.''

Mrs Harvey said the health system had failed Mr Rodger and she would be keeping in contact with him.

''He is so hurt. It's a hurt man talking.''

While she was there, Mr Rodger was phoned by HealthCare New Zealand Dunedin manager Graeme Martin, who confirmed the single hour a week of help.

''Our hands are tied with funding with the DHB,'' Mr Martin said.

''We can only offer what we're funded to deliver.''

Many other readers contacted the ODT with offers of help.

''I'm more than happy to go spring-clean his house and help him out,'' Nakita Lawrence said.

''I used to be a support worker. I know how badly-treated people can get. It's so wrong.''

Sabine Campbell, Judy Griffiths, Gaynor Propsting, Christina Simpson and Lydia Wetere were among more than a dozen people to offer free help.

''How can I help this poor old man? I am a caregiver in a rest-home. I am happy to go and help him out for free,'' Christine Anderson said.

Other readers expressed anger at the situation.

''What is New Zealand coming to, that an elderly patient can be sent home without after-care?'' asked Dorothy O'Donnell.

''He has probably worked all his life and now that he is in his twilight years he deserves better than this.

''That's not what New Zealand is supposed to be about,'' she said.

''I think it's appalling that anyone is sent home from hospital like that. It makes me very sad,'' Kate Croy said.

''It's come to the point where they don't matter, which is disgusting,'' Adrienne Ratcliff said.

''They brought us into this world. We should be doing everything possible to look after them 100%.''

Others said Mr Rodger's situation was far from unique.

''This type of situation is far too common,'' Anita Wates said.

''Perhaps the authorities are under the wrong impression that family will help pick up the pieces. If so, how wrong they are.''

Even medical professionals felt health boards were failing in their patient aftercare duty.

''My nana encountered the same thing after a cancer diagnosis and no home help support, or anything,'' nurse Sarah Janssen said.

''Luckily, I'm a nurse and knew what to ask for, but many elderly people don't.''

Retired Mosgiel couple Mike (73) and Bev (70) Smith said home help was vital to many older people.

''We get an hour and a-half of help a week and it's very important to us,'' Mrs Smith said.

''I think what's happened to Mr Rodger is disgusting.

''One hour a week is certainly not enough and I think he should have at least one hour a day until he is strong enough to care for himself.''

The Returned Services Association and social support organisations also offered help to the former Territorial soldier yesterday.

''We are really concerned. It was very upsetting to read about and we'll be contacting Mr Rodger,'' Age Concern executive officer Susan Davidson said.

''Our health system is under pressure.

''The drive to meeting the bottom line is having a tremendous impact on people like Mr Rodger and we have to ensure the discharge of people like Mr Rodger from hospital does not happen in such a way that he goes home without support,'' Ms Davidson said.

''Elderly people are due respect. One of the tests of a people is how they treat their old.''

Contacted yesterday, Southern District Health Board communications director Steve Addison said the board was revisiting Mr Rodger's situation and hoped to arrive at a more satisfactory outcome.

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