Up to 400 staff could be affected in a shock restructure proposal at one of the country's largest healthcare providers.
Vanessa Dudley, chief executive of Healthcare NZ - which provides in-home health services - on Wednesday made the announcement to staff in a teleconference before sending out a company email.
A staffer, who did not want to be named, said they knew there was going to be a staff meeting but would never have guessed it would result in the slashing of such a significant number of jobs.
It's also left clients concerned and upset about the quality of service they could receive in the future, while Healthcare NZ says the company had experienced "considerable growth" since it was first set up in 1998 and efficiencies now needed to be made.
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In a statement, Dudley said the deadline for feedback is February 20.
More than 200 jobs are scheduled to be axed if the proposal gets the nod, while up to 200 others will be affected by the restructure, however Healthcare declined to confirm the number of positions at stake.
The staff member said the news was a slap in the face to staff, who were mostly female and just finally making ends meat after support worker and 2018 New Zealander of the Year Kristine Bartlett fought for equal pay for women in the woman-dominated workforce.
"We saw this come in to effect across the home and community support sector with significant improvements in pay and travel and guaranteed hours for support workers. It was well deserved and overdue," the staff member said.
"Unfortunately the same increases didn't extend to the staff who 'manage' these hard working people. And there was, and still is, some disparity between the co-ordinators managing the clients and carers and those delivering it."
The Herald understands the restructure will affect administrators, co-ordinators and middle and senior managers around the whole country, with the number of regional managers dwindling from six to four.
Support workers are not affected.
She said the company had 27 branches around the country that were staffed by a mixture of co-ordinators and administrators which were overseen by locality managers.
"They're saying that DHBs, within the next two years, are going to want registered health professionals to do a large part of that work and the rest of it can go to a call centre.
"The issue that we have, when we're the ones that deal with the clients, is that the clients are going to be at risk with that model. There won't be enough people to service it."
She estimated Healthcare NZ currently had about 21,000 clients.
"The call centre picking up the queries. The problem is, with vulnerable people, if you get a call centre and your held in a queue. It's not going to work for you. You're already confused ... your talking with people with dementia, cognitive decline, special needs."
A Manawatu woman, aged in her 80s, has been using the service for over a year after suffering a stroke.
She told the Herald she's both shocked and upset at the proposal and was concerned at not being notified of any possible changes.
She relied on healthcare workers on a daily basis and said handing over a large part of their work to a person sitting in a North Shore call centre simply didn't make sense.
"It's just ridiculous."
Public Service Association National Secretary Kerry Davies urged the company "to go back to the drawing board and prioritise the needs of its staff and the local communities they serve".
"We have serious concerns about the impact proposed job losses will have on both staff and clients."
Healthcare NZ provided home care and support to vulnerable people for multiple DHBs, and managed community houses that provided 24-hour support for people with disabilities.
Like most care and support companies, it was privately owned and run for profit using taxpayer money, she said.
"The funding model for home support care is broken, and we need the Ministry of Health and other funders to take responsibility for ongoing problems in the sector."
Dudley said under the proposal, some roles will be disestablished, some realigned, and some new roles are proposed.
"Over time, we have added business units, structures and positions to the organisation as new contracts were won and new businesses or services were launched or acquired. We now have a structure that is overly complex and lacking in flexibility with duplication across the business.
"The current funding circumstances facing our business are a serious concern to our Board. For years contractual funding from funding agencies has seen very limited increases; many contracts are now very tight. Efficiency improvements are essential if we are to remain truly sustainable."