SDHB chooses Australian provider

Kaye Crowther.
Kaye Crowther.
An Australian-owned, Auckland-based organisation has secured one of three contracts to provide home-based services for elderly people in the South.

The not-for-profit Royal District Nursing Service New Zealand will provide services in Otago-Southland from midway through next year.

This follows revelations in the Otago Daily Times yesterday that Presbyterian Support Otago (PSO) had lost a Southern District Health Board (SDHB) contract worth $5.5 million. The board is due to formally announce the new provider tomorrow.

Yesterday, board member Kaye Crowther, when asked, confirmed Royal District Nursing Service was one of those selected. She refused to comment further, saying the matter was discussed in the public-excluded section of last week's disability support committee.

The organisation is registered as a New Zealand company, which is wholly owned by its Australian parent, according to the Companies Office website. Two of five directors are Australian-based.

When contacted, board chairwoman and director Anne Blackburn, of Auckland, directed inquiries to the health board.

The shake-up, described by PSO chief executive Gillian Bremner in yesterday's Otago Daily Times as a ''huge shock'', comes as the SDHB rationalises the service to fewer providers, and introduces a ''restorative'' model to increase client independence.

Mrs Bremner said yesterday it was unfortunate the board chose an outside provider over a ''tried and true'' local option.

While its parent was well established in Australia, home support was very different there, where it was more generously funded, Mrs Bremner said.

It appeared a ''particular ideology'' was driving tender processes, which favoured larger entities. This was changing the face of the home-based support sector nationwide, she said.

Disabilities Resource Centre Southland general manager Debbie Webster, whose organisation also missed out, said the southern board was the biggest in New Zealand by area, and much of it was rural. Providing the service required specialist knowledge and networks.

''I don't believe that [the Auckland-based company] would have those [networks].

''That sort of connection doesn't happen overnight. It's something that's established over years and years.''

Losing the contract put at risk the centre's hospital visit courtesy van, a service greatly valued in Southland as it helped people attend their hospital appointments.

It also benefited the health board, through helping people keep their appointments. In a joint press release, Dunedin Labour MPs Clare Curran and David Clark condemned the decision, saying PSO was a proven provider and should be retained.

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