28 Jan 2013

Elderly support provider considers legal action

5:32 pm on 28 January 2013

An Otago social service agency says legal advice shows it was not treated fairly when it was dropped as a health provider.

Presbyterian Support Otago and its Southland partner, the Disabilities Resource Centre, have been fighting since December last year to regain the $9 million contracts for elderly support services they have held for 20 years.

The Southern District Health Board used a tender process to cut the number of providers from 17 to three national and Australian-based agencies.

Presbyterian Support Otago and the Disabilities Resource Centre want to be added as a fourth provider, but the DHB is rejecting that idea.

Presbyterian Support Otago chairman Frazer Barton says its legal advice shows it could seek a judicial review of the process.

"When you're a responsible public authority and you decide to do something that has an impact on an incumbent operator there are certain steps you've got to take to be entirely fair."

Mr Barton said the DHB's board has rejected its letter asking for a meeting and if there is no resolution this week the agency will have to consider court action.

However, Wellington public lawyer John Miller believes a judicial review would be unlikely to help the agencies, because the most it would do is to order the DHB to do the tenders again.

Mr Miller says past experience shows unless the court review brought to light a totally flimsy process, the DHB would just make the same decision again but with stronger reasoning.