West Coast District Health Board is sticking to its plans to close Westport-based Dunsford Ward rest home and hospital by 1 March this year.

Since releasing a proposal to close the facility in December, the DHB has been talking to residents, their next of kin, staff, contractors and unions.

The closure has been on the cards for the past two years, following months of conversations and engagement with the Buller community on the direction of travel for older persons’ health services for the region.

The DHB has expressed concerns about the facility’s ability to meet building compliance requirements. It also indicated a strategic shift towards community-based care.

Many of the residents have already moved to O’Conor Home in Westport, or other facilities. There are plans in place for those who are still in Dunsford Ward to transition to their chosen new homes by the end of February.

A staff consultation period has finished and the DHB is now discussing possible redeployment or redundancy options with around 20 permanent staff.

West Coast DHB General Manager Philip Wheble acknowledges the impact the changes may have on staff.

“We realise this will be a difficult time for some staff, and have organised counselling services to be on hand.”

About 30 vacant or new positions including roles for registered and enrolled nurses and support workers have been identified across the West Coast, with five roles vacant in Buller. Dunsford Ward staff with the skills and experience required including any relevant qualifications will be automatically shortlisted for roles they express an interest in, and be considered along with any other candidates.

The DHB has increased resourcing of community-based services, including home-based support services, more options for respite care and expanding diversional therapy into the community.

Wheble says they also intend to set up a caregiver sleepover service when short-term support is needed.

“And we are setting up Community Rehab and Flexible Integrated Rehabilitation Support Team (FIRST) initiatives to support people at home,” he says.

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