The number of home-based support services providers contracted by Nelson Marlborough Health has been slashed from five to just two providers for the region.

Access Community Health and Nurse Maude were successful in their bids for the new five-year contracts starting 26 September 2017. Currently, Access Community Health, Healthcare New Zealand, Presbyterian Support, Nelson Nursing Services and Florence Nightingale Agency provide these services.

Unsuccessful providers were reluctant to speak to media, some for fear that their contracts with other funders – like the Ministry of Health – may be jeopardised. However, INsite can report that some are unimpressed by the DHB’s decision, fearing it will lead to a reduction in choice and quality of care for the consumer.

“It is a shame when we lose good providers,” says Julie Haggie, chief executive of the Home and Community Health Association.

Haggie said the situation represented what is typically happening across the country, with many DHBs opting for fewer providers. There are now around just 35 providers across 20 DHBs. She fears too few providers will limit client choice.

While it appears that Access has been increasing its range, Haggie says assumptions shouldn’t be made that provider contracts will only go to the larger players like Access and Healthcare NZ.

“It is dependent on the DHB. Some are happy with a range of providers and still seek diversity.”

Nelson Marlborough Health’s General Manager Strategy Primary & Community Cathy O’Malley says that Access and Nurse Maude proved their experience, innovation and capability to deliver a new model of restorative care that aligns with global best practice, the Ministry of Health’s Healthy Ageing Strategy and the South Island Alliance’s strategy.

O’Malley says support workers will receive new and more advanced levels of training.

The DHB says all current support workers will be offered employment under the same terms and conditions with the new provider. The new pay equity settlement will have a bearing on this; experienced support workers who are now on a higher rate of pay will require the same rate from the new provider.

The DHB also says that most support workers will have the option to continue working with their current clients. They are reportedly working with unions to aid this transition.

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