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New Zealand’s elders need fit-for-purpose aged care – now and into the future

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The Sapere report on the state of the aged care affirms what the government has known for at almost two decades, says the Aged Care Association (ACA).

The first part of a full review of aged care services and funding, the report’s findings are consistent with the findings of the 2000 PWC report, the 2010 Grant Thornton report, 2014 Grant Thornton report the 2019 EY report, several Ansell Strategic reports, and the Aged Care Association’s own research.

ACA chair, Simon O’Dowd says, “Governments of the past 15 years have ignored the evidence and neglected the aged care sector. We are now at a point where over half of all aged care facilities are making a loss.”

“Unless there is a significant change of strategy and focus to support and fund the sector now, we will see thousands of New Zealanders unable to get the care they need within a decade. As the report notes, there is already an average waiting time of six months for people with dementia to get the care they need, and the country will be short 12,000 aged care beds within a decade.”

“The second part of the aged care service and funding review is critical. We are at a tipping point. If we don’t get this right, the consequences will be dire for the entire health system.”

“There are always going to be people who need round-the-clock care. We need to make sure that residential aged care is always available, and that includes hospital-level care, dementia care, care for young people with disabilities, and palliative care. If that care is not able to be provided in the aged care sector, it will be provided in hospitals; limiting the care available for others.”

“It is our expectation that the Association will be working closely with the Health NZ | Te Whatu Ora review team to develop and implement solutions for the aged care sector that will enable us to provide quality care for New Zealand’s seniors, now and into the future,” O’Dowd says.

Aged Care Commissioner’s report raises concerns over shortage of aged residential care beds

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Yesterday’s report by the Aged Care Commissioner highlights worsening health outcomes for older people, who are facing prolonged and unnecessary hospital stays as they wait for aged residential care beds to become available. The report also notes the increasing shortage of beds in aged residential care, especially at the highest levels of care.

Aged Care Association chair, Simon O’Dowd says, “This report is timely as we await the report on the Te Whatu Ora aged care service and funding review.”

“Despite decades of advocacy for funding that supports the actual costs of providing aged residential care, successive governments have chosen to underfund this vital part of the health sector.”

“We are now in a position where the sector is unable to meet the increasing demand for aged residential care, which effects every other part of the health system.”

“When aged care beds are scarce, healthcare for older New Zealanders is provided by public hospitals at more than three times the cost. We must ensure a steady supply of aged care beds and smooth transitions from hospitals to aged care to reduce the pressure on older New Zealanders and public hospitals,” O Dowd says.

“It is affirming to hear the same messages about aged care coming from all directions. We urge the government to action the Commissioner’s recommendations, so that all older New Zealanders can access aged care when and where they need it.”

Te Whatu Ora review delays pay equity for care and support workers

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Te Whatu Ora is delaying the urgent pay equity claim for care and support workers by insisting on an extra ad hoc review. The last-minute demand is an excuse to interrupt the process and reduce the pay for our sector’s most vulnerable workers.

Te Whatu Ora is seeking to overturn the findings made by investigations into gender-based undervaluation, under the Equal Pay Act.

The peak bodies that represent the employers in the claim, the Home and Community Health Association, Aged Care Association, New Zealand Disability Support Network and Atamira Platform are urging Te Whatu Ora to stop wasting time with its review and trust the work that has been done using methods that have been developed over several years by the Public Service Commission.

“Unions and employers have been working since 1 July 2022 to see pay equity for 65,000 workers, including people working in aged residential care, disability support, home and community support and mental health and addictions,” explains Aged Care Association CE Katherine Rich.

“Not liking the result of a pay equity process is not a reason to stop the process. It seems to us that Te Whatu Ora, despite all the evidence to the contrary, just don’t want to believe how underpaid the care and support workforce is,” says Home and Community Health Association CE Carmela Petagna, “They are turning their back on support workers and the hundreds of thousands of people they care for.”

CE of Atamira Platform Trust Memo Musa says, “All the parties to the pay equity claim are ready to negotiate the details of how to address the pay gaps. It is so disappointing that Te Whatu Ora is holding up the process and allowing this group of workers to fall further and further behind in terms of fair pay.”

“Pay equity is what these workers deserve. We are seeking an urgent commitment from government to honour the process it worked so hard to set up, to disallow Te Whatu Ora’s attempts to overturn the results, and to resource the roll out of pay equity to the whole care and support workforce,” says Kia Tu Tahi Tatou NZDSN CE Peter Reynolds.

Crashing hospital beds highlight the domino effect of the aged care crisis

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The Aged Care Association has today launched a multiplatform campaign to urge the government to fix the aged care crisis. ‘The Domino Effect’ campaign features aged care beds crashing down like dominos on everyday Kiwis, to highlight the impact that chronic underfunding of the aged residential care sector has on all New Zealanders.

ACA interim chief executive Katherine Rich believes it is crucial that Kiwis take note, because the aged care crisis affects us all. For those working in the sector and families who have loved ones requiring residential aged care, the worsening issues come as no surprise, however many New Zealanders will be unaware of how the crisis affects the health system and will impact them. The Domino Effect campaign helps to join the dots and raise awareness.

“Almost daily we are hearing stories regarding long wait times in Emergency Departments, elective surgery wait times growing and wards overflowing with patients. This is all linked to aged care. Funding the aged care sector properly would improve the whole health system,” says Rich.

Aged care has been chronically underfunded by successive governments, resulting in a lack of capital investment in facilities. This comes as the sector grapples with rising costs and an acute shortage of 1200 registered nurses. Many providers have had no option but to close beds, with a number closing their doors for good. In the past year, over 1000 beds have closed permanently and 1200 closed temporarily due to staff shortages. More closures are expected to follow.

“When beds and rest homes close, seniors stay in hospital longer as they have nowhere to go when discharged, and as a consequence are blocking beds for other patients,” said Rich. This situation will worsen as the number of older New Zealanders increases. By 2030, we will need 13,200 more beds. If current trends continue, we will have nowhere near that number.”

The Domino Effect campaign also shines a light on the families who are having to step in and provide care for their older parents, as well as their own children, while also juggling work commitments. It also highlights the ongoing impact on our health workers who bear the brunt of the overwhelmed and underfunded system.

“It makes it very challenging to attract and retain staff and we fear these valued health professionals will move overseas where conditions and pay are far better,” says Rich.

The Aged Care Association is asking New Zealanders to support the Domino Effect campaign and spread the word via social media to spur the Government into action.

“We know what is needed. With sustainable funding, we can provide solutions that will enable the aged care sector to support the health system, not overload it. The evidence supports this, and it makes good economic sense. We need the decision makers to make it a reality.”

To learn more about the crisis in aged residential care, show your support, and spread the word visit www.dominoeffect.co.nz

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Aged Care Association welcomes National’s health workforce policy

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The Aged Care Association (ACA) welcomes National’s health workforce policy.

ACA chief executive Simon Wallace says the policy is well targeted and will support the aged care sector to recruit the nurses it desperately needs.

Simon Wallace says, “The sector is short of 1,200 nurses, almost a quarter of its nursing workforce, and that has led to the closure of 1,260 care beds over the past year. Nurses are the bedrock of the aged care sector, without them older New Zealanders will not get the care they need, when they need it.”

“We are pleased that National’s health spokesperson, Dr Shane Reti has taken the time to understand the issues and has developed policy that will allow facility managers to fill vacancies.”

“Financial incentives are needed to encourage more New Zealanders to train as nurses and this policy does exactly that. It will allow the people who wish to begin a nursing career to undertake their studies without the financial barriers.”

“The immigration component of today’s announcement is also welcome. Giving the families of migrant nurses’ work and study rights is a huge boost for these workers, they can now settle in New Zealand right away,” Simon Wallace says.

“These policies are a big step in the right direction for the aged care workforce. We encourage all political parties to prioritise aged care in their election manifestos – not only staffing but funding and the provision of care.”

Pay parity for aged care nurses ‘promised but not delivered’

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Despite the former Minister of Health’s promise of pay parity for aged care nurses, what has been paid is less than half of what’s required.

Aged Care Association deputy chair, Warick Dunn says, “We are pleased that some money is now available for our nurses. They deserve every cent, and more. The aged residential care sector is nurse-led and, as a nation, we couldn’t care for older New Zealanders without them.”

“It is a blow to discover that the government has not honoured its promise.”

Aged care nurses are being paid up to $20,000 less than nurses who are employed by Te Whatu Ora in public hospitals, and that is the leading cause of nurse shortages and subsequent bed closures. More than 1,200 aged care beds have closed in the last year due to this severe shortage of registered nurses.

“This massive pay disparity was caused by government underfunding in the first place. The least it should do is fix it,” says Dunn.

“The funding that has been allocated will not stop the flow of aged care nurses to higher paying jobs in public hospitals, and it will not stop disruptions in the health care sector.”

“It’s traumatic for older New Zealanders who are displaced from closed carehomes or not able to enter care. Many end up in public hospitals, unable to be discharged until an aged care bed becomes available, which causes flow on effects to the entire system.”

Warick Dunn says, “This funding does not provide equity of access to health care for vulnerable older New Zealanders. The association is calling on the government to create the thriving and sustainable health care system it says it wants by funding pay parity.”

Aged residential care providers thrilled with Green List news

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The Aged Care Association is thrilled to hear that nurses are to be added to the immigration “Green List” fast track, able to apply for residency immediately, including those already in New Zealand.

Association chief executive Simon Wallace says, “This announcement is welcome news for aged care residents, their families, overworked staff and facility owners. At last we can attract the nurses we need to provide the care older New Zealanders need.”

“And it’s welcome news, too, for the migrant nurses who choose to make New Zealand their home. Immediate residency will give them the security they need to settle here.”

“We are very pleased that the government has listened and acted on what was becoming a very serious situation. Today the aged care sector just took another step back from the brink.”

“The Association and its members will take time to celebrate but we won’t be resting on our laurels. Next to sort out is improved investment to support home-grown nursing,” Wallace says.

 

Funding for aged care nurse pay parity a huge win for sector

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Funding to bring aged care nurses’ pay up to the level of public hospital nurses is a huge boost for the sector and is being celebrated by the Aged Care Association.

At the NZ Aged Care Association conference in late 2020, Minister Little made a commitment to deliver pay parity for aged care nurses.

“We are so pleased the Government has made good on the promise”, says Association chief executive, Simon Wallace.

“Achieving pay parity with Te Whatu Ora hospital nurses means the aged residential care sector will now be on a level playing field to attract and retain registered nurses.

“The Aged Care Association is looking forward to working with the Ministry of Health, Te Whatu Ora and Te Aka Whai Ora to make sure the plan achieves its intended purpose. We know it will be complex, as there are over 650 aged residential care facilities in New Zealand.

“While this funding boost is not a silver bullet, it will go a long way to resolving the issues in the aged residential care sector, says Wallace.

“The Government will need to put in place a plan to maintain pay parity in future.”

Disconnect between immigration settings and reality

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The disconnect between the Government’s immigration policy and what is actually happening on the ground in aged care and other sectors is frustrating, the NZ Aged Care Association says.

NZACA chief executive Simon Wallace says, “The aged residential care sector is in crisis, there is no other word for it.

“Over 20 carehomes have closed permanently this year, over 1200 care beds have closed because of staff shortages and there are more than 1200 vacancies for registered nurses.

“Meanwhile, the Minister of Immigration is refusing to allow internationally qualified nurses apply for New Zealand residency straight away, unlike acoustic engineers and chief information officers.

“We want these nurses to be given residency from day one, and to be bonded to an aged care employer for two years in order to provide continuity of care for residents.

“There are nowhere near enough nurses to care for older New Zealanders – and the nurses who are trying to cover all these vacancies are burning out and leaving the profession.

“Immigration settings must ensure the sector’s access to internationally qualified nurses is not hindered.

“We urge the Government to urgently review the immigration green list now, not in May next year as planned,” Wallace says.

The NZACA has recently made a submission to the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment on the Future of the Skilled Migrant Category. The submission can be viewed here (pdf).

Mercy Parklands closure an absolute tragedy says Aged Care Association

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The closure of Mercy Parklands carehome in Auckland is an absolute tragedy says the NZ Aged Care Association.

CEO Simon Wallace says, “We want all New Zealanders to get the care they need, where and when they need it – and that includes older New Zealanders.

“Yet here we are again, in a situation where the lives of older New Zealanders, the workers who care for them and the aged residential care providers are thrown into turmoil.

“This must be a wake up call for the Government.

“Mercy Parklands is closing its doors because there are not enough health professionals to provide the care needed. The aged residential care sector is short over 1200 nurses, a quarter of the workforce.

“Bed closures are happening every day because of nursing shortages caused by the pay gap between hospital and aged care nursing.

“Recent research by the Aged Care Association shows that over 1200 beds aged residential beds closed in the last year, meaning over 1200 older New Zealanders are now without the care they need.

“The Government doesn’t fund aged care nearly enough – nurses’ wages are falling compared to their hospital colleagues, and carehomes are getting older.” Wallace says.

The Aged Care Association sends its sympathies to the residents, families, staff and owners of Mercy Parklands, and urges the Government to take urgent action to stop aged residential care closures.