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Carers and clients concerned

The Healthcare NZ carers and clients are concerned about what they say is a poor level of service. PHOTOS/STOCK.ADOBE.COM

Story by Soumya Bhamidipati

More concerned carers and clients have come forward after the Times-Age’s coverage of Healthcare NZ’s Wairarapa services.

Healthcare NZ carer Cathy* said she had been “battling” with the organisation for a couple of years.

“It’s people’s lives that we are dealing with,” she said.

“I don’t let people know who I work for anymore because I’m too ashamed.”

The main issues were a lack of carers and communication from Healthcare NZ to clients and staff.

“My question for that is why are you taking on new contracts?” Cathy said.

“Caregivers are now at breaking point.”

Her clients were too afraid to lay complaints in case it affected their care, she said.

“They don’t want to rock the boat … I’m trying to stand up for the people who are too scared.”

Cathy was unsure how many carers were employed in Wairarapa.

“I lay awake at night,” she said, “I don’t want to take sick leave because what’s going to happen to your clients?”

Those in care were vulnerable, she said, and not knowing who or whether someone was coming to provide care was distressing.

One of Cathy’s clients had recently had a stroke: “He said, ‘I can’t handle the stress of not knowing’.”

Another of her clients had dementia and was easily confused.

The client was called by Healthcare NZ and told they could not find anyone to provide her care for a day and asked if she was alright.

“It’s too confusing for them,” Cathy said.

“These are not isolated cases.

“I don’t want to see that. Their family don’t want to see that … Enough’s enough.”

She was speaking up because she was concerned for clients’ safety, she said.

“They’ve been assessed to have care, and it gives them the opportunity to stay in their homes.

“The home is their safe environment, and we’re sort of taking that away from them.”

Another issue was the lack of training given to staff, Cathy said.

“They need proper training. Don’t throw people in the deep end. They get people doing medical things that they don’t know,” she said.

“I remember going to palliative care, and I’d never done it before.

“I just couldn’t manage … I called the ambulance in the end.”

While she understood hiring staff could be an issue, Cathy said the organisation could be doing more.

“Every time I talk to them, ‘They’re working on things’, again,” she said, “Well, this has only been three years.

“You do have to have specialised carers, and yes, it is hard to replace that, but maybe train up some of the others.”

While some clients were happy with Healthcare NZ, she was concerned for those who were not.

“I want to know that the people who require the care are going to get it.

“For a lot of them, this is the end of their life. They’ve worked hard all their lives, and we can’t even give them dignity.

“Does someone have to lose their life before they go, ‘Yes, there is a problem’?

“I’m not here to cause trouble … I’m just so angry, and I’m sick of excuses. It’s all about accountability.”
Healthcare NZ carer Steph* agreed change was needed.

“I feel like I can’t even take days off,” Steph said, “Like we get penalised in some way.”

She had given six months notice before taking a week off, she said, and her client had ended up in hospital.

“For four days, she hadn’t had her carers,” Steph said.

“She hadn’t showered since Wednesday. She just tried to shower herself, and she had to call the ambulance.

“They didn’t let me complain about it.

“It’s the fact that they had time to find somebody to cover, and they didn’t.”

She had difficulty getting enough hours, she said.

“They say that they’re so understaffed, and I say ‘hello, I’m here trying to get my hours’.

“There’s a lot of people who are overworked, but there’s also a lot of people who do need the work and don’t get it.”

The Masterton office was only open from 10am-noon, she said, and it was difficult to reach the head office by phone.

“You get five minutes between each client; it doesn’t matter where they are,” Steph said.

“That’s not enough time to get leave forms or gloves.”

Healthcare NZ client Pam* said she was fortunate when it came to her care.

“On the whole, I’ve had a really good run,” she said, “I’m more concerned for the carers and the patients on the other end.”

Sometimes carers would arrive and not know what they needed to do, Pam said.

She was surprised the Wairarapa District Health Board had not been involved with the complaints.

“Ultimately, the buck stops with them,” she said.

“They’re paying for it, and they’re always moaning about the dollar. I’m surprised the board members haven’t been asking questions.”

A DHB spokesperson said it was in regular contact with Healthcare NZ and had confidence in the organisation’s processes.

“During the investigation of any issue raised, any material changes recommended are shared with the DHB, and the appropriate monitoring and follow-up is implemented.

“Patients and whanau that have concerns with any of the DHB services are always encouraged to raise their issues directly with the organisation concerned, with the DHB, or with the Health and Disability Commission.”

Healthcare NZ’s acting chief executive Josephine Gagan said it had not reduced support worker numbers or services delivered in Wairarapa.

“We also have an ongoing recruitment drive that aims to employ more support workers in our key areas of need, including in Wairarapa,” Gagan said.

“However, some of the people we support require carers with specialised skills who can take time to replace.

“We realise that the support we provide is important to maintaining the independence and wellbeing of our clients, and we are continuously finding new and better ways to deliver this.”

* Names have been changed.

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