Sudden home care switch-up 'upsets' elderly woman

Pamela Duffy has built up a close relationship with her carers, who will no longer be visiting her at home after the ...
SCOTT HAMMOND/STUFF

Pamela Duffy has built up a close relationship with her carers, who will no longer be visiting her at home after the board does business with new providers.

A sudden change in home carers has left an elderly woman confused and "very upset".

Blenheim resident Pamela Duffy, 86, has been receiving personal care from Florence Nightingale staff for two years under the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board.

Her son Adrian Duffy said she had built up a relationship with three of her main carers, and there was a "feeling of relief" when their names were on the roster.

But from Tuesday, those carers will no longer be visiting her at home.

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The board has contracted two new support service providers, Access Community Health and Nurse Maude, to provide restorative care to its clients.

The board says all support workers have been offered jobs with the new providers, but one nurse explained she did not want to switch jobs as she also worked with young disabled people.

Pamela Duffy suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). She has trouble breathing and requires carers to come in twice a day, to help her shower and change her dressings.

Duffy thought his mother's Florence Nightingale carers would be transferring with her, but found out last week that was not the case - from the carers themselves.

He believed the decision came down to the board saving money.

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"They're putting the elderly and the vulnerable through the most terrible ordeal," he said.

"I'd love to know how much they're saving per patient, per week. It can't be more than the price of a cup of coffee."

All he wanted was for the agencies to "do the right thing" for patients that wanted to stay with their carers, he said.

A Florence Nightingale staff member said she had spoken to clients who did not understand why they had to lose their carers.

"It's so upsetting for the elderly. They get to trust people and rely on them. We know their routines and they're scared," she said.

She found herself breaking the news to several of her clients.

"[One client] said 'oh, you're not leaving me are you?'. I had another lady say the same thing and when I had to say 'yes', she burst into tears. And that's only two out of hundreds."

Board manager support works Simone Newsham confirmed approximately 1800 clients would be swapping providers.

"The only reason someone will not be able to keep the same support worker is if the support worker chooses not to transfer to the new provider (their new employer). All support workers have been offered the opportunity to transfer to a new employer, but of course that is their choice," she said.

The board had tried to reach people locally to explain what the changes meant to them, with two sets of letters sent out earlier this year and community meetings set up, Newsham said.

"We really want to hear from people who aren't so sure, or who have questions or complaints, directly, so that we can help them out," she said.

She said the move switching providers was not a "cost-saving exercise" and that more funding had been invested into home-based support services instead.

 - Stuff

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