31 Jul 2020

Workers fear vital health services to vulnerable will be cut

11:34 am on 31 July 2020

Health care workers in Waikato are confused and stressed, fearing the district health board will cut home care for vulnerable people.

Waikato Hospital

Waikato Hospital. Photo: Waikato DHB / Facebook

About two weeks ago, home care workers heard their jobs could disappear or their hours could be cut.

They told RNZ there are fears the DHB might cut low level care - chores such as vacuuming, cleaning the bathroom or making the bed.

This would move the care to a "restorative" model, where vulnerable people would be encouraged to do more household chores on their own.

But the DHB denies this, saying no instruction has been given to change support services

A health care worker, who RNZ has agreed not to name but whose identify has been verified, said the DHB was taking away care from people who cannot manage by themselves.

"We've got workers who are standing up and saying 'excuse me, this person needs that care or they're going to be living in filth'," he said.

He understood the DHB had talked to managers of the home care organisations but there had been no communication with workers or clients.

"I think that they need to be transparent when they try and make cuts as significant as they have," he said.

"They need to communicate that. Nothing has been communicated with the clients or the workers on the ground floor."

The Public Service Association assistant national secretary Melissa Woolley said the cuts were a concern for workers all around Aotearoa.

"Our worry is that we potentially may see more of this level of care being removed across the country. It's been a trend over the last couple of years anyway."

The Waikato DHB said it was moving to a national framework like all DHBs.

It said it was in the early stages of talking to home care providers but no decision had been made.

In a statement it said: "We refute that there has been a lack of transparency as there is nothing to share at this time. Whenever there is a change in services, the DHB works closely with our service users and providers to ensure they are informed and kept up to date."

The DHB said it could not give an on-air interview, as there was "no further information".

RNZ asked one of the home care providers, Healthcare NZ, to comment on the potential cuts.

It too refused an interview and sent a statement which did not address the cuts.

"HealthCare NZ is contracted by the Waikato DHB to deliver home based support services to people across the region," a spokesperson said.

"We work collaboratively with the DHB to ensure that the support we provide is flexible, specific to our clients' individual needs, and enables them to live independently in their homes and local communities.

"We also regularly meet with the DHB to review our services to the community, and our funding levels as part of our contractual agreement."

RNZ's 7am bulletin yesterday incorrectly claimed the Waikato DHB was moving to 'cut low-level home care for vulnerable people', and mistakenly attributed to the DHB a statement that there were discussions with healthcare companies about cutting home help and a nationwide move to keep older people active and do the chores themselves. Waikato DHB says it is not in discussions with providers about cutting services and no decision has been made regarding support services at this stage.

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