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Minister Agrees With Unions On Safety Issues

5 April 2002

Associate Health Minister Ruth Dyson agreees with unions that adequate staffing levels and training are key to achieving better quality and safety in rest homes.

“There needs to be a comprehensive approach concerning a range of issues such as staffing levels, training and education, and the development of a worker-friendly culture in the workplace,” says Ms Dyson.

“I agree with the Service and Food Workers Union – and the Government is working in all of these areas in various ways.

“The Ministry of Health is certainly not about to use surveillance cameras in rest homes as an attempt to improve safety. That has never been intended. Rather, cameras may be used where a rest home has been ordered to close or cease providing services, for safety reasons, and there is reason to believe the services are still being provided. In such cases, the recording would involve an inspector walking around with a camera.

“This is a totally separate matter from the use of video cameras by some rest home service providers.

“To improve safety and quality, the Ministry of Health is starting work on development of standards for home support services and identification of competencies and skills required for health care workers so that we can move forward with workforce development, training and supervision.

Ms Dyson says unions will be involved with this.

“It has been an area of neglect for many years and will not stay neglected.

“The Health and Disability Services (Safety) Act includes provision for the Minister to introduce mandatory standards which may stipulate minimum staffing numbers for nurses and other care staff in rest homes and hospitals for older people.

“The Ministry is currently exploring ways in which appropriate nurse staffing levels can best be determined; a similar exercise for health care workers is next on the agenda. The Service and Food Workers Union will be invited to participate in this work.

“This work will complement that being done by the Health Workforce Advisory Committee, which has started gathering information to enable better planning for future health and disability care worker care needs, including training needs.

“Further, I expect to release a report on dementia care shortly with recommendations on a range of issues, including improving staff levels and training opportunities,” says Ms Dyson.

In response to the union concerns about funding, Ms Dyson says last December the government injected an extra $12.6 million a year into residential care for older people, an increase of 2.6 per cent. This funding is on top of new money that had been made available for volume growth. Further funding increases are expected later this year.


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