Warren and Zena Mikoz. PHOTOS/SOUMYA BHAMIDIPATI

Wait for shower continues

A Masterton woman has been forced to sponge-bathe for almost a year, with delays in making her bathroom more wheelchair-accessible have no end in sight.

Zena and Warren Mikoz have lived in their Trust House rental for about five years. In 2019, Zena had her left leg amputated. In 2020, her right leg was also removed.

Now wheelchair-bound, Zena needs help showering. However, the house’s bathroom is too narrow to allow for this.

Zena’s wheelchair barely fits through the doorframe.

While Trust House approved plans to renovate the bathroom last year, which included creating more room by knocking down the wall between it and the toilet and installing a roll-in shower, work had still not started.

“Trust House has approved it, but we’re waiting for the builders,” Warren said.

Although Zena’s occupational therapist had been trying to follow up on the delay, he had been unable to gain traction for the couple.

“He said there’s a huge waiting list on it,” Warren said.

“We’re not getting nowhere.”

The wait was affecting Zena’s sense of dignity.

The hospital had offered use of its accessible shower facilities, but the couple worried going to and from the hot rooms out into the cold would further impact Zena’s health.

“Healthcare come and give me a sponge down and change me,” she said. This had been how she washed for almost a year.

The couple, in their sixties, had still not received even a rough idea of when they could expect the renovations to begin.

“It could be Christmas, could be after, or whenever,” Warren said.

“It’s not very good, but you have to go with the healthcare people.”

He had expected to wait for perhaps a month or so but said more than six months was just “not good enough”.

“When the first leg came off, it should’ve been done then. It’s been too long now.”

Other authorities seemed to be unaware of the delay, Zena said, such as a Trust House officer who had come to inspect the house about a month ago.

“He thought the shower had already been done,” she said.

“My doctor thought it was already in the house … she was shocked.”

The couple had everything else they needed, including new carpet.

“I thought to myself, instead of bloody carpet, what about the bathroom?”

Trust House general manager of housing and infrastructure Craig Thomson said the delay was out of Trust House’s hands.

“I believe that in Zena’s case, this is a modification funded by a department of the DHB [District Health Board]. Trust House has not been approached by anyone to carry out these modifications,” he said.

Thomson confirmed Trust House had received a request to modify the property from Enable New Zealand, a division of MidCentral DHB that contracted out its disability support services, in September 2020.

“We signed and sent the modification request back to them the same day. I was speaking to Warren the other day about another matter and he made me aware of the fact that Enable New Zealand had still not carried out the work.”

Modification requests of this sort came to Trust House as the owner of the property, he said.

“The needs of the patient are generally assessed by an occupational therapist, and a modification plan is then drawn up and presented to both the patient and the owner of the property for agreement.”

Enable New Zealand general manager Michelle Riwai said the organisation was committed to identifying issues and improving processes.

“In this particular case, a culmination of factors, within Enable New Zealand and with the community-based assessor, unfortunately resulted in these clients experiencing significant delays.

“We are working to resolve the issues as soon as possible and we are open to meeting with the clients in person to discuss their concerns.

“We understand that the EMS [Equipment and Modification Services] assessor is currently working with the clients to trial some equipment. Should the current equipment trial not be successful, the EMS assessor will then advise Enable New Zealand and we will immediately process the housing modification request as a matter of priority.”

The organisation apologised for the delays, Riwai said, stating it aimed to deliver the best possible service to the communities it served.

“We accept that the wait times in this case are not within our expected time frames,” she said.

“As a result, we have altered some of our processes to improve our service to clients and are reallocating resources to reduce wait times for equipment requests.”

There were six Enable New Zealand clients in Wairarapa whose applications for housing modifications were being reviewed, Riwai said.

“We also have four clients who have housing modifications approved and which are currently being actioned – these are all progressing within expected timeframes.”

A spokesperson for Wairarapa DHB said while the DHB undertook assessment and made recommendations, the decision ultimately sat with Enable NZ.

“Enable NZ holds the budget and approval to fund a range of equipment, housing modifications and other services for people with long term disability needs who meet the eligibility criteria,” the spokesperson said.

“In relation to this client, the DHB has undertaken clinical assessment and provided this information as part of an application to Enable NZ for funding for equipment and housing modification solutions. The decision on the preferred solution and the approval of funding for housing modifications or other customised equipment options are made by Enable NZ.”



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