Hodgson orders review of troubled care provider

Health Minister Pete Hodgson has ordered a review of Focus 2000, the disabled care provider surrounded by allegations of unsafe conditions and medical mistreatment in its residential homes.

"A number of potentially serious issues about Focus 2000 have emerged over the past week," Mr Hodgson said last night.

"The Ministry of Health and Focus 2000 have agreed that the issues need to be investigated urgently."

Focus 2000 is the business arm of the Cerebral Palsy Society, one of Auckland's largest disabled care providers.

It was revealed last week that it had been forced to repay some of the money it received from the ministry to run its services after financial audits from 2004.

Those audits also contained allegations of unsafe conditions and medical mistreatment, and Mr Hodgson told Parliament yesterday "new information" had come to light.

That information, which he did not disclose, forced him to change his stance.

He initially blamed disgruntled people for leaking reports about issues which had been cleared up.

Mr Hodgson said the independent review would begin next week, and would examine the organisation's business and management systems.

There would also be financial and quality audits.

"The programme of audits and reviews will allow all of the issues that have been raised about Focus 2000 to be urgently investigated," he said.

"The actions I've announced will allow for immediate action and will avoid the unnecessary delays that would arise from a politically convenient 'inquiry'".

Confusion about the "new information" cited by Mr Hodgson increased yesterday when a ministry official apologised to a committee of MPs for giving the impression that it did not exist.

The previous day Geraldine Woods, the ministry's deputy director-general of disability services, had left the committee with the impression that Mr Hodgson's information came from the media.

"I am concerned that I have caused confusion," she said in a letter to the committee.

"There are other allegations that have been made about Focus 2000 that are not on the public record."

Mr Hodgson today told National Radio the Government had received a "range of complaints" about Focus 2000.

He did not want to go into details but said the complaints were not about life or limb.

"We have no reason to believe that anyone's in any acute danger, that there's any life or limb at all."

The spotlight went on Focus in the past week when documents from around 2004 surfaced in the media.

The 2004 audits resulted in Focus repaying $2.5 million.

The Ministry of Health went back over those documents and felt those problems had been cleared up.

But that all changed when Mr Hodgson said he received new information.

The reviews being carried out were: a financial audit by the Ministry of Health; an independent organisational review looking at business and management systems at Focus 2000; previously scheduled quality audits that would look at the care of people "even though we have no current concerns"; and a weekly meeting.

The board of Focus 2000 has expressed confidence in its staff and management of the organisation, and has promised to co-operate with the ministry.


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