Nurses unions launch campaign calling for greater staffing numbers at aged care facilities

Nurses unions have launched a campaign in calling for the Government to review staffing levels at aged care facilities around New Zealand and set mandatory rules for staff numbers.

New Zealand Nurses Organisation and E Tū claim aged care is a broken system in the report, In safe hands? How poor staffing levels and rationed care are harming aged care residents and staff.

The report contains the views of 1194 staff across the country, including registered nurses, enrolled nurses, caregivers and facility and clinical managers.

Around 73 per cent of those surveyed felt staff numbers at their care facility wasn’t high enough to provide quality care for residents.

Around 85 per cent of those surveyed said it is difficult or very difficult to get extra staff when residents need more care.

Johnsonvale nurse Marianne Bishop told 1 NEWS she's seen residents entering rest homes at an older age with higher needs over her career, and believes the 2005 voluntary standards are out of date and unsafe.

At the campaign launch, she said, "When we don’t have enough staff on duty, we can’t complete everything.

"We have to do things like give residents a wash instead of a shower. We can’t answer call bells on time. Often residents can’t get help to get to the bathroom on time so become incontinent."

New Zealand Aged Care Association chief executive Simon Wallace doesn’t support the campaign for safe staffing numbers, saying the focus should be on matching pay with that on offer to nurses at hospitals and allowing immigrant caregivers to work in New Zealand for longer.

"In the age care sector at the moment we have lost registered nurses to the public hospitals, in the last six months we’ve lost between five and 600 nurses to public hospitals since the pay deal was done with those staff and they get paid five to six dollars more in hospital than they do in a rest home.

"Actually what that’s saying is the Government is valuing the care of patients in hospitals more than they’re valuing the care of residents in our rest homes."

Mr Wallace said the Government needed to meet with the New Zealand Nurses Organisation, E Tū and the Aged Care Association to address issues in the sector by coming up with long-term solutions together.

He described the situation as a perfect storm facing the aged care sector, due to the country’s aging population, current immigration policies and low unemployment.

Associate Health Minister Jenny Salesa said there are two aged care reviews underway and she regularly meets with the sector.

"Having a shortage of nursing staff in aged care facilities is an issue they’ve raised with me, and have raised that with me over the last year or so, and this is something we’re working on together to address," she said.

Mrs Salesa said she’s expecting the reviews will be completed in the next few months, but will not promise any changes to aged care before the end of the year.

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It follows a new report that revealed workers believe staffing is too low to provide adequate care. Source: 1 NEWS