Rally in support of PSO

Protesters file out from the grounds of First Church to start their procession to the Octagon....
Protesters file out from the grounds of First Church to start their procession to the Octagon. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
The Southern District Health Board has not adequately explained its decision to dump Presbyterian Support Otago (PSO) as a home-based support provider, Dunedin South MP Clare Curran told a protest in Dunedin yesterday.

About 200 people - many of them caregivers - turned out to oppose the health board's decision to drop PSO and its regional partner, Disabilities Resource Centre Southland.

A petition calling for the board to reconsider has gathered more than 4000 signatures.

Starting at First Church, the marchers' procession to the Octagon was heralded by a bagpiper.

Ms Curran told the rally she met health board managers on Wednesday, and emerged with unanswered questions. The decision appeared to lack transparency, she said.

Union representatives Ann Galloway (Service and Food Workers Union) and Cee Payne (New Zealand Nurses Organisation) both told the rally PSO was a better employer than many others they had dealt with in the aged care sector. Workers' advocate Mike Hanifin said PSO staff did not want to see their organisation's work of more than 100 years disregarded by the health board. More action was planned, he said.

PSO Family Works buddy co-ordinator Fiona Ross said her programme faced cutbacks if her employer lost the $5.5 million annual home support contract. She believed the health board should consider the wider effects of its decisions. The buddy programme helped young people, which in turn made the population healthier and less likely to need health services. Contacted yesterday, health board chairman Joe Butterfield, of Timaru, said he was confident the board followed the correct process to pick its preferred providers.

Asked if he had received the PSO's letter asking to meet the board, he said he had, but had not decided whether to grant the request.

An Australian-owned organisation which has not provided services outside Auckland is one of three chosen for the new ''restorative'' service, starting from March.

- eileen.goodwin@odt.co.nz

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