Dumped PSO mulls home support work

Gillian Bremner
Gillian Bremner
The Southern District Health Board is considering options in respect of a multimillion-dollar home support contract up for renewal next year.

Five years ago, the DHB dumped Presbyterian Support Otago from its $5.5 million contract, a move that caused a public outcry.

PSO had been one of 17 providers, which the DHB reduced to three. One of the successful tenderers was the Australian-based Royal District Nursing Service.

In a statement, the DHB said it was considering the service in light of stronger labour regulations.

"We are currently considering our options in light of the major changes currently affecting the industry, including in-between travel, guaranteed hours and pay equity, and also national work occurring as part of the healthy ageing strategy," the DHB said.

About 4300 older people received home support, compared with 3900 five years ago. In the same period, the number of older people in subsidised rest-home care had fallen slightly, the DHB said.

Five years ago, PSO chief executive Gillian Bremner likened the loss of the contract to a family bereavement. She said yesterday it would be up to the PSO board whether to re-tender, but the loss demonstrated the fickle nature of such contracts.

A law designed to protect workers during upheaval had the perverse effect of handing over a trained workforce to a new player. The new provider reaped all the benefits of training and investment, she said.

"You train your staff up and then they just pass over to another provider. There’s no recognition of the investment you’ve made in those staff and the intellectual property."

Mrs Bremner said there had been "incredible consolidation" of home support providers in a relatively short time in both ACC and DHB home support contracts.

"There are very few local providers around the country [now]."

The two big providers were Healthcare New Zealand and Green Cross Health (formerly Access Homehealth).

Increased labour costs were a challenge for the DHB, but having a more stable and happy workforce was a big advantage, she said.

Mrs Bremner said the DHB’s 2012 decision was unrelated to cost as tenderers did not bid on that basis.

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