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Apology from DHB after ‘insensitive’ letter to 93-year-old

Apology from DHB after ‘insensitive’ letter to 93-year-old

By Astrid Austin, AustinMedia

Saturday, January 11, 2020 6:20 AM


A 93-year-old blind and partially deaf man has accepted an apology by the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board after he was sent an “insensitive” letter informing him he would no longer receive help with household chores.

But Searle Kilford believes it should never have happened in the first place, saying it was “unrealistic, insulting and patronising”.

The announcement to cut the service for people aged 65+ who only receive DHB-funded housework and no other health-related support services was met with outrage and complaints from at least 160 people affected this week.

In the letter, sent to 605 people, the HBDHB said that while housework “may seem like a chore, it is also a great way to maintain a good level of health and wellbeing at any age”.

But for many, including Kilford, they are “physically incapable” of doing it themselves. Daughter, Sue Thomas said the whole thing was a “joke”. Her father is completely blind in one eye, and partially in the other, and “very dependent” on the service, she said.

Kilford said the need to look for alternative sources of help had put a “huge strain on everybody and upset a lot of people”. His family had been helping him look prior to the retraction, and had contacted the HBDHBs planning and funding manager, Janine Jensen named at the bottom, but were told she was “away”. They had since spoken to someone else.

However, yesterday, the DHB back-pedalled, saying it would reinstate home help to all those who had rung their needs assessment service co-ordination (NASC) team, and was committed to making contact with all letter holders.

Executive Director Planning and Funding, Chris Ash, said they were committed to supporting older people to live in their own homes for as long as they can and were “disappointed letters have gone out to people who genuinely still require this support”.

“We unreservedly apologise for this and accept the assessment process has not been robust enough.  As a result, we have put extra people in place through our needs assessment service to help manage client reviews and are reinstating services immediately for clients who have already phoned the service to advise they cannot live safely and independently at home without it,” Ash said.

“As a further measure, the DHB has also asked providers to make contact with all affected clients to assist them in being reassessed for support, and if they feel they still need it, to reinstate their services until reviews are undertaken.”

Last year Hawke’s Bay DHB undertook a review of the service working with providers and other key stakeholders to ensure eligibility was standardised for all clients, so those who needed basic housework support, such as vacuuming and cleaning bathrooms, received it.

People are eligible for housework support for various reasons and reviews are needed to ensure adequate support is continuing to be provided to those who need it most. 

Ash said the criteria for people who had been referred for home management related to their ability to manage household tasks and was assessed on an individual basis, taking into account their living situation, medical diagnoses and what other health supports they were receiving. Any exceptional circumstances were also taken into account as part of the individual situation of each person.

Age Concern Havelock North said they are pleased that the HBDHB has taken the “positive step” of reversing their recent action of non- funding the housekeeping services for some of the older persons in Hawkes Bay and apologised for their “insensitive letter”.

“We applaud the DHB for fronting these issues and Age Concern Havelock North looks forward to working with the DHB to ensure that the health funding is well spent and addresses the needs of our community. One of our roles is to look after the interests of the ageing community and ensure that they are treated fairly and with dignity,” chair Wayne Bradshaw said.

They are currently working together with other Hawke’s Bay Age Concern groups, Grey Power and the DHB on a Memorandum of Understanding which would “hopefully avoid a repeat of the current situation,” Bradshaw said.

“Once finalised, it is our wish this will highlight agreed areas of joint interest so we can start to identify issues, set some goals and work together to achieve positive outcomes for our growing older community.”

Anyone who has received the letter and is concerned support is stopping for them can make contact with the DHB’s needs assessment service, as outlined in the letter (Ph: 870-7485 Ext 5221), if they feel they still need this support in order to stay living safely and independently in at home.  Alternatively, a provider will contact them to discuss their needs directly and work with the DHB to log a reassessment request.

After phoning the needs assessment service, clients go through a triage process over the phone to gather further information, before a private home visit is organised to reassess their needs.


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