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Canterbury home health organisations coping following earthquake

Sep 10, 2010

Checking on sick, disabled and elderly people under their care has been a challenge for the staff of Canterbury organisations that provide health and support services to people in their homes, but they are managing.

Providers of home health care in Christchurch say they have had a frantically busy few days making sure clients are safe. The damaged roads continue to cause problems getting round the city. Managing support worker rosters has been made more difficult with the closure of schools, as many support workers have school aged children. Many workers have also had to cope with damage to their own homes. And ensuring client safety has been difficult where families have taken their elderly relatives into their own homes without notifying the provider.
New Zealand Home Health Association Chief Executive, Julie Haggie, says provider members take their duty of care obligations to their clients very seriously and have been visiting people to offer support and comfort.

“For some of our disabled or immobile elderly clients, it’s all the more terrifying being in a quake because they know they can’t move fast. Other clients have been less daunted by the event but still need to talk about it.”

Ms Haggie says, for some home-based clients, without family, their home health carer is their link with the outside world. “Coordinators are spending time with clients who ring in to talk about their experiences during the main earthquake and afterwards. In an extraordinary situation like this our carers and coordinators provide support and comfort as well as practical assistance.”

Graeme Titcombe from Access HomeHealth, which provides care to just under 2000 clients in the Canterbury area, says that their busy staff have been touched by kind gestures from others. “Clients and support workers in other parts of the South Island have rung in offering breaks for clients and support workers in their homes. And we have had calls from retired support workers volunteering their time to visit clients.” 
Deb Wolken from Nursing New Zealand reports that the majority of Nursing New Zealand’s clients in Christchurch have managed to remain safe in their own homes. One high needs client had significant damage to his home, and one staff member lost her home.

HealthCare NZ which provides home-based support and community nursing services for 2,800 people in Christchurch acknowledges the great work their staff have been doing under the circumstances. Southern General Manager, Community Services, Kathryn Jones says, despite experiencing losses in their personal lives, a large number of staff have still come to work and continued to offer the best support they can to the people they support in the Christchurch community to live independently in their own homes.

“In the immediate aftermath, staff not only ensured the safety of the clients they were caring for that day but also their other clients they knew wouldn’t be seen for a couple of days. Staff have been instrumental in helping to clear up, restock cupboards and provide emotional support to clients in their homes. It is good to see that our crisis planning has stood up to real-life application and that senior staff worked effectively with those on the ground to ensure the ongoing safety of people we support.”

The New Zealand Home Health Association would like to acknowledge that there is a long road ahead for staff and clients during the coming months. “We’d like to take this opportunity to recognise the courageous and generous attitude of our Christchurch providers and their staff - their actions have shown us all what the kiwi spirit is really about,” says Ms Haggie.

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