Centre loses DHB contract

More than 220 Southland support workers are waiting to hear why the Disability Resource Centre Southland's $2.5 million contract with the Southern District Health Board is being dropped after 15 years.

Disability Resource Centre Southland general manager Debbie Webster said a phone call this week from the health board was like a punch in the stomach.

She was told a contract with the centre and Presbyterian Support Otago - which together provide care for 4600 older people in the Southern health district, 700 of them in Southland - would not be renewed.

"I'm angry and disappointed . . . it's quite unbelievable that we didn't get it. There have been no complaints . .. the integrity of our organisation speaks for itself. There is no reason for [the health board] not to choose Presbyterian Support."

Presbyterian Support Otago, with the Southland centre, had been one of six providers short-listed for the contract, under the new DHB "restorative model". Mrs Webster understood only three were chosen.

The health board has declined to name any of the providers until tomorrow.

Together, Presbyterian Support Otago and the Disability Resource Centre Southland provide care for 43 per cent of people in Southland and Otago in need of personal care - such as showering and grooming - and home help such as shopping and transport. While the Southland resource centre has contracts with ACC and the Health Ministry, most of its income comes from the DHB contract, which ends in June 2013.

Losing it would mean half the organisation would have to go, and about 226 disability support jobs in Southland would be affected, Mrs Webster said.

It was assumed, but not certain, the new provider would hire the support workers who had lost their jobs, she said.

She understood one provider chosen was an Australian organisation, which had worked only in an urban area of New Zealand, however the DHB would not confirm this.

This was concerning because there could be a lack of understanding of how support work was carried out in the rural areas, she said.

The centre had built relationships with the health trusts around Southland, from Tuatapere and Stewart Island, to the Queenstown area, where the centre had aimed to be established by next year.

There was a growing need for support workers in the Wakatipu basin which was now unlikely to be met.

In an emailed response to questions regarding details of the providers, and where they were based, board executive director of funding and finance Robert Mackway-Jones said the board would not name them yet. "We wish to give providers sufficient time to be able to talk to their staff directly and inform them of the changes proposed."

No changes to staffing or services would happen until March, Mr Mackway-Jones said.

A three-month transition process would then begin. Many staff would be transferred to a new provider.

The changes to services would offer greater flexibility for clients and would be more equitable and consistent across the district, he said.

An official announcement will be made tomorrow.

The Southland Times