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Don't care and no responsibility

Updated on December 11, 2015
This is the DHB setup personified (or is that primatified?). The fourth monkey is obviously the Minister in charge of this rabble.
This is the DHB setup personified (or is that primatified?). The fourth monkey is obviously the Minister in charge of this rabble. | Source

What has the Bay of Plenty District Health Board got to hide?

If you are a cynical type you might well automatically answer. “A whole lot you will wish you never knew”. My friends, I fear you just don’t know how accurate you are if that answer sprang to mind.

I have had a number of unsatisfactory dealings with this particular monument to stupidity and incompetence recently and my inter-actions with other people in our community indicate that my experiences are far from unique.

However, even a seasoned old cynic like me was not prepared for what happened when I tried to get the answer to what I consider to be a comparatively simple question this week.

The question could hardly have been simpler but it has taken me on a torturous and convoluted journey that really does raise the obvious (supplementary) question, “What have they got to hide?”

The journey began after a shocking discovery I made a few weeks ago. At least I think it is shocking, although it would appear DHB doesn’t share my concerns in the slightest and is instead simply worried about claiming a non-existent right to privacy over what they deem to be confidential information. Given that my question was simply about their policy on a certain situation I can’t see how that can be confidential.

The American Government’s neither confirm nor deny policy a few years ago regarding their warships carrying nuclear weapons (or not as the case might be) did not impress me either. However they are not accountable to the taxpayers of NZ so I was happy for that to be dealt with by the Government of the day and surprisingly they did a good job on it, although the current rabble have sold us out again. But that’s another story. However the DHBs are owned by the taxpayers of NZ (for now anyway) and we are entitled to know their policies on matters that very directly concern the health of our older people and people with disabilities.

But the (t)rusty gatekeeper apparently sees no need to be concerned about the welfare of this vulnerable group as she is refusing to divulge its policy to me.

I was told I could submit a written complaint about the incident that led to my inquiry and they will investigate that.

However I have no desire to raise a complaint at this stage because the information that gave rise to my question;

  1. Did not involve me or anyone in my care;
  2. Was obtained in circumstances that require confidentiality; and
  3. Without knowing the DHB’s policy regarding such matters I don’t even know if there are grounds for a complaint;
  4. My question is about their overall policy position and not about any particular incident so it would be unlikely to meet the criteria for a complaint.

In any case even if I did submit a complaint, they would hardly be likely to give me a proper answer as that would then indicate what their policy is or whether in fact have one.

Given it has become abundantly clear they do not want me to know such things I would have then wasted many more weeks at the end of which I would be no nearer the truth (if one ever gets such a thing from Government agencies under this regime). Even the Ombudsman protects them these days!

I should have seen this coming because right from the start I was pushed from pillar to post and sent up one blind alley after another.

I foolishly put this down to incompetence as I had made it perfectly clear what I wanted to know, but it would seem that instead they were hoping I’d get tired and give up. Big mistake BOPDHB!

Then two weeks ago I thought I got a break-through when I finally managed to track down the correct department to ask my question of. I was asked for my contact details and the reason for my question and told it would be passed to the appropriate person who would subsequently contact me.

Two weeks and no call-back later I decided a follow up was due. Miraculously I managed to get hold of the same person I had spoken to earlier. I thought my luck was turning as this is most unusual; normally your first point of contact mysteriously disappears on follow up calls, almost as if they never existed. I suspect this is a tactic taught at bureaucracy school - Stonewalling 101 or something of the sort.

I really thought my ship was actually going to berth when I was told that the person I needed to speak to was at her desk and would call me back.

A few minutes later the call came and it then became clear they had been avoiding me.

By now you are probably tearing your hair out waiting to hear what this big secret is that I am not allowed to know, so I will keep you in suspenders no longer (although I must say they do suit you).

I simply wanted to know if the BOPDHB has a policy requiring their contracted providers of in-home health care services to carry out police checks on their staff before turning them loose on your granny.

So how can that be a big deal to answer? Surely they would want to ensure the safety of our elderly and disabled people? Surely they would have a policy on this?

I think most of us would be extremely worried if we thought that people with convictions for violence, or dishonesty were being sent out to care for our nearest and dearest in their own homes with no supervision whatsoever.

My own mother gets these services and the thought that someone who has convictions of this sort might be sent out to take care of her scares the living bejebers out of me.

But I was met with a flat refusal to either confirm or deny whether they have such a policy.

This particular DHB is always keen to talk the talk about how great they think they are, so one might have thought they would have seized upon this opportunity to re-assure me that they really did care and have such a policy in place to ensure the safety of our Mums and the like. But instead these bureaucratic monkeys are apparently deaf and blind to the issues and dumb regarding the answers.

I am rapidly reaching the conclusion they don’t have a policy on this issue because in an attempt to justify her position the gatekeeper said they couldn’t tell their providers how to handle their staff!

Either she is being disingenuous or her stupidity is even greater than I gave her credit for. The DHB grants the contracts for these services FFS so they are quite obviously in an overwhelmingly powerful position to make any conditions they like including requiring all their contractors to complete police checks on their carers before sending them into people’s homes. Only a mentally challenged person would try to argue otherwise... but then......

I asked the question because I am aware of at least one current provider of in home care services that has sent carers into the homes of vulnerable people without police checks having first been completed. I am also aware of a dismissal that resulted when a police check on one such worker came back with undisclosed convictions. The problem I have with that incident is that by the time the check came back the worker had already been working for several weeks unsupervised in the homes of vulnerable people. I’m thinking horses, stable doors........

So how dedicated to patient safety is that provider? Clearly not dedicated enough. And more importantly, why won’t the BOPDHB either confirm or deny whether they have a policy which requires all of their contracted providers to complete such checks before sending people into the homes of the elderly and people with disabilities?

The answer I was given was, “It’s confidential information and we can’t tell you the details of our contracts with our providers.”

While I accept the second part of that argument as accurate, we have another disconnect between the bureaucratic mind and commonsense with the first part because I didn’t ask for the details of any of their contracts. I merely asked if they had a general policy that required all contactors of these services to carry out these checks and not send their staff into people’s homes until they had come back clean. Don’t they know the difference between a contract and a policy? Or is this simply another example of the sort of bureaucratic stonewalling that we are seeing far too much of these days?

Their refusal to either confirm or deny the existence of a policy in this area leaves us with the obvious conclusion that they do not have a policy and the providers are left to their own devices and nobody is accountable (as usual).

I am reminded of a phrase from that awful flag referendum advert; “What do New Zealanders stand for?” To which I always found myself yelling back at the TV, “Too bloody much; that’s what New Zealanders stand for!”


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