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WINZ staff interfere in treatment plans of beneficiaries

20 October 2013

Unqualified WINZ staff interfere in treatment plans of beneficiaries

Graham Howell, spokesperson for the Benefit Rights Service expresses concern at the interference by unqualified Work and Income staff in treatment plans of those on benefits and low incomes.

Work ands Income use Regional Health Advisors (RHA) or Regional Disability Advisors (RDA) to tell case managers to exclude items from the “Disability Allowance”. The Disability Allowance is intended to reimburse treatment costs if the person or their children has on-going health issues likely to last six-months or more. These RDA or RHA staff often have no formal medical qualifications, and even those that do have not been employed in a medical capacity for years – yet they are saying to case managers, “do not include” this item or that item when the person’s doctor says it necessary for ensuring their well-being.

The treatment can be for activities such as aqua-jogging for people with diabetes, prescription items that are do not have the full Pharmac subsidy or additional heating in the home. The person needing the DA often has to get their GP to write annual letters to Pharmac to get Pharmac saying the medicine is still not fully subsidised when this is public information and that the GP believes generic medicines are causing negative side-effects for their patient.

This behaviour directly impacts on treatment plans that are discussed between the GP and their patients. Beneficiaries are often forced to go without prescribed medicines and then, they or their children end up in hospital.

The Social Security Act is, however, designed to protect these RDA and RHA people from being taken to the Health and Disabilities Commissioner because legally they only make “recommendations”. But almost no case manager is prepared to go against their “recommendation”.

Beneficiaries in turn are not aware of their rights and because of the way they feel disempowered when at Work and Income, they simply take what is dished out to them.

The consequences for the country are untreated health issues and people going to the Emergency Department and being admitted into hospital at much greater expense.

The whole process sucks. People, on whatever income, need to be able to access the treatment prescribed by their doctor.

If we have to have the RDA and RHA these “advisor” need to facilitate people getting better, not make things worse.


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