Move may be a step too far for patients

TESSA JOHNSTONE
Last updated 05:00 14/07/2014
 Pacific Health Service
KEVIN STENT/ Fairfax NZ

HIGHER GROUND: Waitangirua grandmother Nofo Roebeck, 76, pictured with staff member Tovila Fomai, says this flight of stairs is a big barrier for her to get to check-ups with the Pacific Health Service.

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A health service is concerned its forced move to a second-floor office will endanger its work with elderly and disabled patients.

The Pacific Health Service in Cannons Creek was asked to move out of the rooms it has rented from the Whanau Centre for 12 years and, reluctant to leave the area, is moving to a rundown, second-storey space next door in November.

Chief executive Eleni Mason said the eviction came as a "total surprise" .

Though they had been on a month-to-month lease they had reassurances from the Whanau Centre it was a long-term arrangement. "We had reassurances from [chief executive Liz Kelly]. The approach has been absolutely disrespectful, just shocking."

But Kelly said she had not given them reassurances they were staying, and she did not know why they had chosen a space that was not at ground level.

Mason said the flight of steep, uneven stairs at the new place would be a barrier for clients, including elderly patients and diabetics attending foot clinics.

"They will try to get upstairs, but the few [that have been] up there have actually tried to crawl."

Waitangirua grandmother Nofo Roebeck, 76, said she found it difficult to walk after knee surgery on both legs, had high blood pressure and was upset by the move. "I feel very sad having to move upstairs because I know I won't be able to go up the steps. I was quite happy to come to the services because I am able to walk on a level that my body can cope with."

Mason said it was not an option to move out of the suburb where most of their clients lived.

The new space would continue to house a six-day-a-week exercise programme, which can see up to 150 people pack a room for Zumba, hip hop or aerobics classes,

The nine staff members will cram into small offices at the edges of the exercise space.

"The community is very upset about it, they're saying ‘we'll march if we have to'," Mason said.

Whanau Centre chief Liz Kelly said the organisation needed extra space for a community gym which would also create jobs.

"The reality is [Pacific Health Service] have a month-to-month lease, and our organisation is expanding because we're meeting the community needs, and we need space."

Kelly said when she discovered the service had a $52,000 grant to refurbish the offices, she told them it would be better spent on a building they owned rather than rented.

"It makes more sense for them to housing all their staff in one building, rather than paying dead rent.. It would have been "prudent" for the service to start looking at alternative office space over the past couple of years.

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- The Dominion Post

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