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Spotlight Needs to Shine on Aged Care Homes

24 July 2008

Spotlight Needs to Shine on Aged Care Homes: Greens

The Green Party says fears that five other rest homes could be almost as bad as Auckland's Belhaven home - where an elderly woman was gagged - undermine confidence in the entire aged care sector, and to restore confidence the government should publicly release audits of all New Zealand rest homes.

The Ministry of Health was asked to prepare a list of other rest homes potentially in the same league as Belhaven, and Green Party Health Spokesperson Sue Kedgley says New Zealanders have a right to know the results of the Ministry's rest home audits so they can learn for themselves the true state of care in rest homes.

"The aged care sector is one of the most un-regulated sectors in the health system and frankly, we have no idea how good or bad the care is in many of our homes.

"We need to shine the spotlight on the aged care sector, make audits of facilities available for concerned relatives, and put in place minimum standards for training and mandated minimum staffing levels to ensure older New Zealanders are not being maltreated.

"There is no minimum standard for how many staff are needed to look after patients in residential care, and no minimum training standard or required certification for caregivers. People can literally walk off the street and start working in our homes, without any training. Most caregivers are paid the minimum wage and staff turnover is huge. We desperately need pay parity with District Health Boards, or there will continue to be high turnover and under staffing throughout the sector.

"The two to three yearly audits by the Ministry of Health - where the Ministry gives advance notice that they are about to conduct an audit - are woefully inadequate, and we urgently need proper regulation and monitoring in the aged care sector.

"The pitiful pay rates, which lag way behind similar work in DHBs, mean that the workforce is shortstaffed, and has an unacceptably high turnover. More money and better training are needed if we are to avert any more such horrific situations occurring.

"Elderly rest home residents are in a particularly vulnerable situation and need to be treated with respect and compassion. While the vast majority of rest home workers are struggling to do a good job, they are badly underpaid, under resourced and under valued. It is crucial we better resource them for the important work they do, and require homes to meet minimum standards.

"The aged care sector is an example of why we should not contract public health services out and abandon regulations."


ENDS

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