PSO chair says flaws in dropping of contract

GWYNETH HYNDMAN
Last updated 05:00 25/01/2013

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The Presbyterian Support Otago board chairman says he does not want to embark on litigation regarding the Southern District Health Board dropping the PSO's home-based community services contract.

PSO board chairman Frazer Barton said they had requested a meeting with the health board, following legal advice that the health board's selection process for a provider had been flawed.

Mr Barton said he could not disclose what the flaws were.

Dr Royden Somerville, QC, who was advising the PSO, also said he could not discuss the flaws.

The PSO and Disability Resource Centre Southland have together held the joint contract to provide home-based services to Otago and Southland for 15 years.

Last month, the charities were told by health board funding and finance executive director Robert Mackway-Jones the PSO contract would not be renewed in June.

More than 4000 people have signed an online petition, calling for the board to retain the PSO as a fourth provider. Yesterday, about 100 people marched through Dunedin in support of PSO.

Disability Resource Centre Southland general manager Debbie Webster said a van from Invercargill with five staff had also gone to the rally.

While it was the PSO that was determining whether to take legal action, the resource centre was contributing to financial costs for legal advice, which had been about $10,000, Ms Webster said.

She questioned comments made by health board deputy chairman Paul Menzies in the Otago Daily Times on Wednesday that implied the 800 staff employed by both charities - 220 of them in Southland - were unemployable.

Yesterday, Mr Menzies said that was not what he meant and that the PSO and Disability Resource Centre Southland "did good work", however, both the charities and the health board were in "a tough business".

The decision to retain the PSO could not be made on the basis that they were local, he said.

He said he could not elaborate on why the decision had been made to drop the PSO contract.

Through a spokeswoman, health board chief executive Carole Heatly said all groups were welcome to make a presentation to the board.

No meeting between the PSO and the health board had been arranged as of last night.

gwyneth.hyndman@stl.co.nz

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