A worried Auckland mother has been left scrambling to help her tetraplegic son after his caregiver agency pulled its service with no notice.
In a move that's been described by those in the industry as "extremely unusual", ACC-funded agency Life Plus pulled its caregiver out of Kellie Aitchison's home on Thursday evening.
Aitchison's 25-year-old son, Ben Clifford, has been a tetraplegic since breaking his neck after a dive into a friend's swimming pool went wrong in 2015.
Since then Clifford has required 24-hour care - a contract given to Life Plus.
But that service came to an abrupt end on Thursday.
First the Aitchison family home had a visit from police, who came to confiscate Clifford's large cannabis supply - a drug he uses to control his pain. He had hoped the supply would see him through the rest of the year.
ACC, Life Plus, Clifford's caregivers and anyone else associated with his well-being knew about his cannabis use, Clifford said, as it helped control his spasms and muscle pain.
"It can mean the difference for me not being able to drive my powerchair, to being able to drive it."
Aitchison said a couple of hours after the police left, the caregiver at their Dairy Flat home got a phone call from her manager to leave immediately. After several calls the carer eventually left, in tears, having to leave Clifford with no one at his side.
"I can't believe they've done this, they've just gone," Aitchison told the Herald today.
The family have been left flummoxed as to what's happened, she said, and have only been told it was due to "health and safety reasons".
But both Aitchison and Clifford say neither the carers, or anybody else, have anything to worry about.
Aitchison said she has had concerns for some time about the level of help they've been getting.
"We had two to three regulars which were great and Ben's had them for pretty much the whole time," she said.
"But the ones they were sending in [recently] didn't know how to hoist, didn't know how to turn him over, they don't know how to do anything. Some of them don't even speak English."
The family contacted ACC on Friday, she said, which told her to call an ambulance so Clifford could be taken to hospital and spend the weekend there.
However, Aitchison said they'd tried that before and the hospital hadn't been able to provide the level of care her son needed.
"You've got to have the right mattress, you need someone staying with him 24 hours. They just leave [him] in the room," she said.
"That's not care for him. That's not the right care. He can't even push a buzzer [to request help]."
The past three days had been stressful for the whole family, especially Clifford.
"I'm stressed as. I'm worried," he said.
"I'm worried for my skin because I don't want it to break. I'm worried that I won't be able to get to my physio appointments on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
"I've had broken skin before and I had to stay in bed for two weeks until it healed and I just really don't want to go through that again. .. that's what happens if you're left on your back or your side and not turned."
Clifford is also a father to 6-year-old Alizay who had also been stressed by what happened.
"When I got the phone call and Life Plus told me, she was standing there," he said.
"I was shocked and she saw my reaction and started to freak out a little bit. But I just tried to calm her down afterwards and tell her that it will be all right."
Although she was young, she had been a great support for him, both physically and mentally, Clifford said.
Hans Wouters, chief executive of New Zealand Spinal Trust, said it was "extremely unusual" for a carer to be pulled from a job with no prior warning given to the family.
"The only time you would ever pull someone out would be in an extreme situation where you thought there would be an extreme danger, like weapons or anything where the carer is in danger. It is extremely unusual in New Zealand."
Standard procedure is for the client to be notified the carer service is intending to withdraw and a transition plan put in place, Wouters said.
Life Plus general manager Michelle Batchelor declined to comment on the situation.
"No comment, this is part of an ongoing police investigation," she said in an email to the Herald.
Police confirmed they visited a Silverdale address last week. Inquiries in relation to the visit are ongoing.
ACC will respond this morning.