‘We do exist’: Frustrated family’s plea to be heard

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Invercargill man Stuart Kemp, with special-needs daughter Stephanie, is frustrated by what he says is a lack of communication from care provider Healthcare NZ.

Evan Harding/Stuff

Invercargill man Stuart Kemp, with special-needs daughter Stephanie, is frustrated by what he says is a lack of communication from care provider Healthcare NZ.

Frustrated Invercargill man Stuart Kemp feels like flying to the North Island, storming into the head office of HealthCare NZ, and saying “we do exist”.

Kemp and wife Glennis are at their wits’ end, saying repeated attempts to communicate with the company which is in charge of the care of their special-needs adult daughter, Stephanie, have failed.

“We can’t get a hold of them,” Kemp said.

They have requested a meeting with List MP Liz Craig to discuss their concerns, saying they have emailed HealthCare NZ at least 16 times with various queries since April 21 without a reply, and received little joy with phone calls being followed up.

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HealthCare NZ, however, says it has provided the family with a dedicated service facilitator and phone number, plus contact details for its service centre general manager to help co-ordinate requested changes for outside activities.

“Our records clearly show the effectiveness of this plan.”

The couple, who are among five caregivers for their daughter Stephanie and are paid by HealthCare NZ, dispute the new arrangements are working and say a HealthCare staff member is visiting next week to discuss their concerns.

They said they were speaking out about their frustrations with the company for a second time to try and bring about change.

ACC had approved funding for Stephanie to do various activities including swimming, 10 pin bowling and craft groups, they said.

However, her caregivers couldn’t take her without the approval of HealthCare, they said.

“If Stephanie wants to go swimming you can’t organise that because you can’t get a hold of HealthCare, so it’s Stephanie that suffers. It’s just frustrating. Honest to god this causes so much tension … we can’t organise anything because they aren’t communicating.”

The couple said the lack of communication began when Healthcare closed its Invercargill office several months ago, and they had to ring a call centre to deal with the company.

Invercargill man Stuart Kemp, with daughter Stephanie.

Kavinda Herath/Stuff

Invercargill man Stuart Kemp, with daughter Stephanie.

Another caregiver for Stephanie, Natasha Hayes, backed up the Kemps’ concerns, also expressing frustrations with HealthCare’s lack of communication.

Stephanie’s mother Glennis said ACC paid HealthCare NZ to look after their daughter, so she believed ACC should take action.

ACC acting chief operating officer Gabrielle O’Connor said the organisation was aware the Kemp family had experienced frustrations with their care provider, and ACC was helping find solutions and seek alternative arrangements.

“We believe progress is being made.”

She said any complaints to ACC were thoroughly investigated, while she added HealthCare NZ and the wider health sector was facing staffing challenges.

A HealthCare NZ spokesperson said it was concerned the Kemp family felt they had not been receiving timely responses relating to their requested changes for the support around the physical activities Stephanie was wanting to participate in.

“We apologise for any distress this has caused the family.”

Each of Healthcare’s disability clients had individual needs, but last-minute requests for changes in the support plans of clients with complex needs could not always be met as the company needed to ensure the availability of appropriate carers.

HealthCare’s team was working closely with the family to implement an improved communications plan and roster of support to assist with their changing needs, the spokesperson said.

Healthcare had confirmed with the family it had the carers with the required skills available in their local area to support the family with their needs.

She said HealthCare NZ operated a centralised 24/7 service centre model which had delivered improved quality home care for its clients and increased engagement for its carers. This was demonstrated by higher response rates, a transparent chain of communication, timely escalation of feedback, streamlined service records and increased resourcing for complex health conditions and clinical governance, she said.

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