Man with spina bifida one of 250 to lose care as Laura Fergusson Rehabilitation closes

  • 06/02/2020

A beloved care provider for injured and disabled people is closing its doors after operating for more than 50 years.

Laura Fergusson Rehabilitation is a home away from home for people like John Wolk, who was born with spina bifida and later lost a leg.

He credits the provider for helping him become an independent young adult while he lived there.

"I moved out of home and lived at Laura Fergusson for two years, and during those two years I basically learned how to become and be independent as a young adult," he told Newshub.

"I actually learned to drive and got my licence while I was living at Laura Fergusson."

Wolk is one of 250 who will lose the care they rely on when the facility closes its doors in Auckland, Waikato and Whanganui in August. Sixty-two people will need to find new homes.

"There are very few options already, and so it came as a shock," he says.

Laura Fergusson was set up in 1967 as a haven for young disabled people. Especially those who - up until then - had been forced to live in rest homes.

Wolk visits nearly every day to catch up with friends and use the wheelchair-friendly gym.

But CEO Heather McLeish says the centre has been running at a loss for five years.

She believes the added costs of pay equity and increased safety have made it harder to survive alongside newer providers.

"They're different from us because we're the oldest. We've got the oldest site, older buildings… some of our units on site are 40 years old."

The Ministry of Health told Newshub in a statement that it never wanted Laura Fergusson Rehabilitation to close, but that its priority is helping clients and their families find alternative care.

But the ministry wouldn't comment on whether it ever considered increasing funding to the Trust.

"I think a couple of ministers have to come out and say how they feel about it and what's going to happen and what they can do about it," Wolk says.

His brother Stefan says the centre has given Wolk the ability to "carry on with life".