Contract shock for PSO

Gillian Bremner.
Gillian Bremner.
Presbyterian Support Otago (PSO) has suffered a ''huge shock'' from being dumped as the provider of a $5.5 million annual contract providing home-based services to older people, chief executive Gillian Bremner says.

The Southern District Health Board is rationalising home-based support services in Otago-Southland, and wants fewer providers.

''It feels like a bereavement in the family ... so I'm upset,'' she said.

The board is introducing a ''restorative'' model to try to enhance client mobility and activity.

''We've pioneered the restorative service with a reluctant DHB for many years. The staff actually provide a fantastic service,'' Mrs Bremner said.

PSO, with Disabilities Resource Centre Southland (DRCS), had hoped to secure a sizeable part of the new service. The two paired up to provide the Otago and Southland-wide service sought by the board planned to start midway through next year.

Together, PSO and DRCS accounted for 42% of the board's home-support service.

''Obviously, losing a sizeable DHB contract means that the overheads related to that will no longer be necessary. The impact on the whole organisation is significant.''

It was too early to state the extent of the ''significant structural reviews'' that would result.

Mrs Bremner understands three providers have been chosen for the service. PSO was on a short list of six.

Affected staff were expected to secure jobs with the new providers, serving the same elderly clients.

Elderly clients should not be worried, because they would still have their service, she emphasised.

Successful tenderers will be named later this week by the board, which yesterday declined to comment before the announcement.

The district health board accounted for the vast majority of PSO's home support work. It also delivers home support for the Accident Compensation Corporation, and the Ministry of Health.

Nearly 400 staff were employed in its home support division.

''[Home support is] not the only thing that we do in Presbyterian Support, by any means, but it's a large part of what we do.''

She had not been advised why the bid was unsuccessful, but understood she would receive feedback on that today.

''I'm not sure what else we could have done to demonstrate we wanted to be part of it.''

The multimillion-dollar contract helped support the infrastructure for PSO's wider work, which includes social supports for vulnerable people. However, profit margins from home support were slim, she said.

Disabilities Resource Centre Southland general manager Debbie Webster said there was ''disbelief'' the centre had missed out on the service it had provided for 13 years.

The contract was worth between $2 million and $2.5 million a year. The service covered isolated areas such as Stewart Island, and Tuatapere, and the centre had built strong local relationships over the years. Up to 200 staff were affected.

The situation created uncertainty for clients, she said.

Home support covers a raft of services, including shopping, food preparation, medication management, personal care, house-cleaning and general household management.

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