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Parties Must Show Leadership In Aged Care

Press Release from HealthCare Providers NZ Inc

HEADLINE: Political Parties Must Show Strategic Leadership To Prevent Crisis In Aged Residential Care

All political parties must make firm commitments to the elderly and the aged care sector if cases of poor care for the elderly are to be avoided, such as those highlighted tonight by TVNZ .

"For the sector to be sustainable politicians need to stop unnecessary regulations, resist knee jerk reactions, and instead show strategic leadership - if this does not happen the sector will be in crisis by 2011", said Martin Taylor, CEO of HealthCare Providers NZ.

"We have asked all political parties to show leadership and commit to ensuring the elderly in care are protected from inflationary costs, and that the sector's sustainability is thoroughly looked into to ensure the elderly get the right care at the right time".

"Of the two major parties policy commitments, Labour is yet to commit to an automatic inflation adjustment for the aged care subsidy, and both National and Labour have rejected extra funding for nurses wages so that we can match DHB nurses wages."

However, National has repeatedly made election promises to increase funding for aged residential care and we are waiting for the details on that promise shortly".

"Of the smaller parties the policy commitments of New Zealand First are clearest, followed by those of United Future and the Greens."

The full policy commitments of these political parties to the aged care sector can be found at www.whocares.org.nz.

In terms of the Minister's announcements today, the aged care sector had already welcomed in July the spot audit proposal and have since been waiting on the Ministry to establish the capacity to deliver on this initiative.

We also believe publishing certification audit reports will assist the public in their choice of health care provider and build confidence that faults are being identified and resolved. Transparency and up-to-date information are essential when making an informed choice."

"We also hope for all New Zealander's peace of mind and safety that the spot audits and publication of audit reports will cover DHB hospitals as well, considering the 462 sentinel events and the associated 137 deaths that have occurred in these public institutions".

ENDS


Frequently Asked Questions

What is happening in the aged care sector?

The aged care sector is under resourced and under pressure. There is growing concern about the sector's ability to continue providing the same level of services to increasing numbers of elderly people. This concern has been caused by three events:
• First, unmet inflationary costs make it difficult to provide the same level of service.
• Second, government funding means aged care workers are underpaid compared to others in the health sector.
• Finally, the aged care subsidy is not sufficient to encourage the building of enough new facilities, so at some time in the future elderly people who need residential care will not be able to get it.

How have these problems come about?

The government subsidy for the elderly is not indexed to inflation and is not automatically adjusted each year. Any adjustment is made following negotiations between DHBs and aged care providers. This year DHBs only passed on 2.8%, or $25 million to providers. This was $7 million short of the full inflation adjustment.
There is no pay parity between aged care workers and public sector health workers. This is because the public sector is funded at a higher level so that they can pay higher wages.
The elderly population is growing at a very fast rate. In 2008 the population over 65 years of age grew by 2.1% compared to the previous year. This is over twice the rate for all ages combined. During this same time the number of beds only went up by 1%.

Who is affected by the problems?

Everyone is now, or will, in the future, be affected. Whether it is an elderly person needing care, their family and friends, or someone entering their retirement years, the aged care bed shortage, pay and training issues are, or should be, of serious concern.

What is the effect on the elderly and their families?

It is becoming increasingly common in some areas for all aged care beds to be full. When this happens elderly people have to take any available bed, which is often in another area. This means their family and friends have increased travel time and costs, which results in the elderly person being visited less often and losing their connection with their family and community.

How did the funding problem arise?

The Government subsidy has not kept pace with the increasing care and capital costs associated with the provision of high quality aged residential care.

How can the funding problem be fixed?

The first thing to bring stability to the sector is for the aged care subsidy to be indexed to inflation, just like superannuation.
Second, the 2001 costing model on which the present fee is based needs to be updated, and the government needs to accurately predict future demand.
Third, the government needs to commit to pay parity between government nurses and aged care nurses.
Why don't aged care workers get paid the same as other health sector workers?
Government health care workers received a 20% pay increase in 2005, with another 4% a year over three years from 2007. To match this, the government subsidy to private health care providers would need to increase by 2% or $18 million a year each year for the next three years. That is why we are asking political parties to commit to funding that will permit pay parity for our workers with the government sector.

Why does the aged care sector need its own Industry Training Organisation?

The current industry training organization (ITO) covers aged care and the intellectual and physical disability sector. It is focused on developing a generic, pan-sector qualification, not on developing or assisting the delivery of training to the aged care sector. We believe elderly people are not disabled: they are elderly, and while there are some issues in common, they have a different set of needs. A specific aged care ITO means that government funds allocated for aged care training would be spent on aged care training. The ITO would exist solely to deliver training to ensure the elderly get the best care possible.

What is Health Care Providers NZ's role?

As the organisation representing 80% of all aged care providers in New Zealand, it is our role to raise public awareness of the impending crisis in aged care and seek political commitment to make the changes that will make a difference.

What is HCPNZ doing to help fix the problems?

We have launched a campaign to raise awareness of the issues and to get political parties to state their commitment to fixing the problems we have identified. We are asking the public to visit our website www.whocares.org.nz and sign up as someone who cares, post comments about the state of aged care, and ask questions of each political party.

Where can I get more information?

The www.whocares.org.nz website has information about the campaign and what the political parties are saying about funding for the aged care sector. We will update the website with more information during the campaign and send a regular e-newsletter to people who have signed up.

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