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Lack of Staffing Puts Lives At Risk in Aged Care

12 May 2006

Lack of Safe Staffing Puts Lives At Risk in Aged Care

Today is International Nurses Day and the theme is Safe Staffing Saves lives.

“Unfortunately for the residents of aged care facilities in New Zealand, many of the facility owners do not accept the fundamental link between staffing numbers and safe care,” said New Zealand Nurses Organisation industrial advisor, Rob Haultain.

Rob Haultain said a recent NZNO audit of aged care and dementia care facilities showed aged care operators have scant regard for safe staffing.

NZNO audited the facilities using Ministry of Health indicators of minimum numbers of nursing and care giving hours per patient per day, depending on the level of care that individual residents/patients need to ensure safe care for every resident/patient.

“The results show that many aged care facilities habitually staff well below the registered nurse hours that the indicators state are ‘safe’,” said Rob Haultain.

An audit conducted by NZNO last year showed that aged care facility owners were least compliant with the Indicators in relation to the registered nurses’ hours.

“Across the sector, nursing numbers was well below the minimums. Caregiver hours across all sites were 24% below the minimums.”

Rob Haultain said one facility audited last week showed registered nurse hours were 1.14 per patient per day when the Indicators required 3.5 –4.35 total RN care hours.

Another facility, when audited, had no RN on duty on the morning shift which is the busiest shift. One week later, when the NZNO audit tool was put over that same facility, the audit showed that no housekeeping duties could be carried out due to short staffing. Numerous other examples could be given.

“When NZNO raises non-compliance with the Indicators with employers their stock standard response is “Those are only indicators. They are not mandatory. We can choose whether we comply with them or not!”,” said Rob Haultain.

“We end regulation and adequate funding in the aged care sector or unsafe staffing will continue to put the care of our elderly at risk.”

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