500 sign charities' petition

GWYNETH HYNDMAN
Last updated 05:00 23/01/2013
Joy Goodall and Debbie Webster
JOHN HAWKINS/Fairfax NZ
KEEP IT LOCAL: Joy Goodall signs the Disability Resource Centre Southland petition as general manager Debbie Webster looks on.

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More than 500 people have signed a petition to keep the Disability Resource Centre (DRC) Southland and Presbyterian Support Otago (PSO) on as a fourth provider of community-based care.

Each signature on the online petition generates an automatic email. Yesterday, the Southern District Health Board confirmed they were flooding the inboxes of chief executive Carole Heatly, finance and funding executive director Robert Mackway-Jones, and chairman Joe Butterfield.

Disability Resource Centre general manager Debbie Webster said she and her staff had also distributed fliers to mailboxes at the weekend, informing people that DRC Southland and PSO had lost the joint Southern District Health Board contract they held for 15 years and were asking the board to reconsider its decision to have only three providers.

PSO and DRC Southland were told before Christmas that their contract would not be renewed in June. The board then announced that Australian-owned Royal District Nursing Service New Zealand had been selected instead.

The two charities still hope to be added as a fourth provider.

Ms Webster and PSO chief executive Gillian Bremner have both said the board's decision to have only three does not make sense, and no reason was given as to why they were dropped.

The restorative model of care, described by the board as new, has been used by PSO and DRC for 10 years, they say. They have never failed an audit, and have already trained staff to a high level - most have a level two qualification - supported by a team of nurses.

The two charities believe some additional services - such as a courtesy hospital van, a leisure and recreation centre, and plans for a DRC centre in Queenstown - would not continue without them, Ms Webster said.

The number of people who had signed the petition showed that people wanted Southland and Otago-based not-for-profits over big national companies, she said.

Board chief executive Carole Heatly said yesterday the board staff had been receiving automatic email notifications of the petition being signed. They wanted to respond directly to those who had signed but the notification system did not enable that.

"The DHB has been through a fair and transparent tender process," she said. "Through that process we determined the best providers for the service and we will not be revisiting this decision."

Ms Webster said regardless of Ms Heatly's statement to the contrary, the two charities were still hoping public pressure would help their case.

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They had not received formal notification that they would not be added as a fourth provider, she said. That notification was expected by February 1.

"There is still a window."

Petitions must be received by the support centre, or at drcsouth .co.nz, by January 28 at 5pm.

The petition will be presented to the board on January 31.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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