Why are aged care nurses special?
- They care for the health and wellbeing of more than 36,000 of our most vulnerable people in 650 rest homes around New Zealand.
- They are expert clinicians, managing multiple complex health conditions, as well as palliative and end of life care – all without the support of the clinical teams available in hospitals.
- They are team leaders in charge of health care workers who tend to the needs of our most fragile
- They bring humanity to healthcare, building genuinely loving relationships with people in their care and friendships with their whanau.
- They love what they do.
Why are they not paid the same as nurses who work in public hospitals?
Nurses who work in aged care have been undervalued for many years, a symptom of the historic underfunding of rest homes.
The amount of pay aged care nurses receive is directly related to the amount of funding rest homes receive from District Health Boards – a per bed, per day rate based on the level of care each resident is assessed for by DHBs when they admit them to rest homes – standard, hospital or psychogeriatric level care.
Losing nurses when we need them most
In 2018, the Government, very rightly, improved pay and conditions for nurses who work in public hospitals in recognition of their value. DHBs were also required to recruit 500 more nurses. As a result, since then rest homes have continued to lose valued nurses to District Health Boards seeking better pay – which rest home providers are not funded to match.
Those rest home providers that can and do pay their nurses more have a retirement village to cross-subsidise their rest home offering. But contrary to popular opinion, rest homes are not profitable businesses. They rely wholly or largely on capped Government funding and run on the smell of an oily rag.
Indeed, the sector is a broad church with a range of ownership structures, from corporate and private to trust, religious, welfare-run organisations and not-for-profit entities.
Time to value aged care nurses and ensure the sector is funded to pay them what they are worth in parity with their peers who work in public hospitals.
How much is needed to fund pay parity for aged care nurses?
The cost to Government of funding the sector to ensure pay parity for the 5,000 aged care nurses in New Zealand – an increase of at least $10,000 per annum per nurse, would be around $70 million.
Considering Budget 2020 injected $4.37 billion into District Health Boards – we reckon there’s plenty to go round.