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Auckland amputees left in the lurch again

The private company at the centre of a long-running controversy over inadequate amputee services in Auckland and Northland has announced it is ending its contract with the Health Funding Authority three months early.

In Parliament today, the Alliance asked the Minister of Health what arrangements had been made for amputees in Auckland from 30 June 1999, the date Rehabilitation Management Ltd has told the HFA it will end
its contract.

Alliance Leader Jim Anderton says amputees have been left in the lurch again and the HFA must take responsibility for the disgraceful way in which they have been treated over the last three years.

"The services of the Artificial Limb Board were axed in 1997 in favour of Rehabilitation Management Ltd, a new boy on the block with no track record in prosthetics, because they were cheaper.

"Service on the cheap is exactly what the HFA got. Within a few short weeks amputees began to complain of ill-fitting limbs and sub-standard service. Many opted to pay for limbs by the Artificial Limb Board rather than accept RML's shoddy work."

Mr Anderton says over the last three years the folly of the HFA in contracting to a private company on the cheap has been proven time and again.

"The Auditor-General investigated the $947,827 paid in five top-ups by the HFA to RML and was critical of RML's lack of working capital.

"The Health & Disability Commissioner has also been investigating amputee complaints against RML. Unfortunately, more than two years on, I am still waiting for her report.

"As for the HFA, it is on notice. It is an expensive bureaucratic empire that is remote from the people at the sharp end of their decisions like the amputees in Auckland.

"The Alliance will re-introduce democratic control of the public health system and re-invest the $115 million currently spend on health bureacracy to provide more health services," Mr Anderton said.

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