Community-Based Aged Care in Crisis

NZ Council of Christian Social Services (NZCCSS) and Presbyterian Support New Zealand warn that access to not-for-profit aged residential care is reaching breaking point. With the likelihood of DHB nurses receiving a well-deserved increased pay package, NZCCSS and its members have been urging the Government to review its investment in the Aged Care sector – with little success.

  • Across Aged Residential Care, Registered Nurse vacancies currently stand at 730 with 170 working out notice, so 900 in total.
  • 15 Aged Residential Care sites have either closed beds or turned away admissions due to shortages of Registered Nurse’s.
  • 82 sites have experienced challenges maintaining ‘safe’ staffing levels.
  • 860 Registered Nurses have resigned or handed in their notice since 1 March 2021.
  • 60% of Registered Nurses are going to DHB public hospitals, 30% to other Aged Residential Care providers, 6% to MIQ, 8% to work as vaccinators, 12% to another health provider outside of aged care.
  • Main reasons for leaving are higher pay package at DHBs (70%).
  • 300 Registered Nurses are waiting on Immigration New Zealand for visa finalisation, or are waiting on New Zealand Nursing Council registration. [Source: New Zealand Aged Care Association Audit of Members July 2021]

Too often, when we talk about residential aged care, it is the large, commercial (and profitable) service providers that come to mind. We are not speaking on behalf of these providers.

We speak for the not-for-profit and community-based providers for whom the ability to keep their facilities running is becoming an impossible mission.

The NZNO settlement will see only DHB nurses receive improved conditions – excluding 20,000 of the country’s more than 56,000 registered nurses. Even without the latest NZNO pay claim, nurses in the not-for-profit sector receive around $10,000 per annum less than their DHB counterparts. After the NZNO settlement, that gap could extend to $25,000+. We already have the example of Oranga Tamariki paying their social workers more than the NFP / NGO sector to know that this will gut our services even further.

Closures of services are a very real possibility. More New Zealanders will have no choice but to care for their loved ones at home, with the attendant stresses on families that can bring, including the prospect of increased incidences of elder abuse as already pressured families struggle to cope.

We know our nurses need and deserve more. And we want our older people to receive the best care possible. To achieve this we will need:

  • Treasury to fund parity for all registered nurses
  • Urgent international recruitment of nurses, including bonding to areas of need
  • State sponsored scholarships to qualify our existing international nurses to meet New Zealand Nursing Council standards

Right now, New Zealanders access to not-for-profit Aged Residential Care is reaching breaking point. Our members are calling for a clear plan from Government and it is vital that Government responds now.

Background information

Prior to the NZNO pay claim, community/not-for-profit nurses received $10,000 per annum less than DHB registered nurses. The gap could widen to $20,000 on settlement of the NZNO claim. [Source: NZ Aged Care Association]

Nurses are leaving community/not-for-profit providers in unprecedented numbers. A member organisation covering the lower North Island reports it is down 16.4 registered nurses across four homes in Wellington. The acute housing shortage/high cost of housing in Wellington is a significant contributor. Recruitment agencies are refusing to look for candidates for Wellington vacancies owing to the risk of refunding finders fees as nurses leave positions when they can’t secure accommodation. The housing shortage in Whanganui is attributed to nurse vacancies in the area. Nurses have started, then left, because they were unable to secure housing. Three of this national organisations care facilities have closed to new admissions. It has closed 16 beds at its largest facility and is contemplating closing its hospital wing.

An Auckland based member organisation reports recently losing two registered nurses from a facility it manages. The RNs moved to the provinces to work for DHBs – more money and more points for residency applications.

Two homes in Thames share one registered nurse between them.

Community and not-for-profit providers are already closing admissions.

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