Health and Disability Commission is keeping close eye on in-home health provider
The Health and Disability Commission is concerned about some of society’s most vulnerable not getting proper service. File photo. (File photo)
A health and disability service watchdog is keeping an eye on a provider over a “concerning rise in complaints” in 2020.
Deputy health and disability commissioner Rose Wall said she was concerned about the number of complaints against HealthCare NZ “over a relatively short period of time”.
Healthcare NZ is a private company that receives Government contracts to provide in-home and community support services.
Between October 23 and September 23, the Health and Disability Commission received seven complaints about the provider. Clients said support workers weren’t turning up, workers weren’t following the care plan, and clients were unable to get hold of the provider.
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John Landreth was left paralysed in an accident and needs 24/7 home care. He had numerous problems with his former care provider, such as staff not showing up, being left on his own, and trouble contacting the company with his concerns.
A 2019 surveillance audit, released under the Official Information Act, highlighted that the provider’s complaints processes were not fully adequate, clients’ support services were ceasing when they shouldn’t be, and referrals for care weren’t being responded to in a timely manner.
A 2020 audit of the provider was delayed because of Covid-19 and was ongoing.
In September, Wall escalated these concerns to the Ministry of Health, including director-general health Dr Ashley Bloomfield, ACC, and the district health boards who had contracts with HealthCare NZ.
As of March 2021, MidCentral DHB funded 1345 of HealthCare NZ’s in-home and community support clients.
Wall believed progress had been made, but “I remain concerned that the same issues are recurring”.
“Consumers have the right to services of an appropriate standard,” she said. “I was particularly concerned in light of the vulnerable consumer groups who rely on these community support services.”
This month, the provider announced a further restructure, which may disestablish a further 59 jobs.
Josephine Gagan, acting chief executive of HealthCare NZ, said the 2020 restructure was an effort to improve the very systems those complaints regarded. It was also a response to the underfunding of the sector, which continued to be an issue for the provider.
Gagan said all complaints to the Health and Disability commissioner had been investigated and closed. “None of the complaints have been found to be in breach of the Code of Rights.”
The issues with care packages having an incorrect end date were fixed the same day the team knew about it, Gagan said, and the complaints and referral process was now daily, so people did not fall through the cracks.
“We are well under the threshold that are required for HDC or internal complaints,” she said.
In June, a draft audit of HealthCare NZ raised two high-risk findings, including a client who spent a night in their driveway following a fall and a client who died of sepsis.
Gagan would not comment on specifics due to privacy concerns, however said the fall was “in no way related to any gaps in our service delivery”.
In the case of the client who died, Gagan said the client had refused multiple offers of emergency care and hospitalisation.
Media spokespeople for the Ministry of Health and MidCentral District Health Board said the findings were still being assessed, and a timeline would be established for HealthCare NZ to implement an improvement plan.
HealthCare NZ is part of the umbrella New Zealand Health Grou’, the country’s largest network of healthcare providers. The group also owns Geneva Healthcare, a brand of medical alarms, and their staff training programme, My Skill.