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Unions Call For Mandated Safe Staffing In Aged Care

A delegation of New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) and E tū members working in the aged care will deliver a parliamentary petition and open letter to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern tomorrow calling on Government to mandate safe staffing levels in the Aged Care sector.

NZNO Industrial Adviser Lesley Harry says existing regulations have not been safe for many years and have not kept pace with the care requirements of senior citizens who are increasingly frail and have complex needs.

"Poor as they are, the Health and Disability Standards are vague and do not specify minimum staffing levels. Way back in 2012 the Human Rights Commission recommended that the standard indicators for safe staffing in aged care and dementia care should be compulsory to ensure the protection of both carers and older people.

"Almost a decade later and the sector is now in crisis and unable to retain experienced and skilled staff."

Ms Harry said nurses and caregivers are simply run off their feet and are unable to provide the safe care that their residents and patients deserve with vital care being missed or significantly delayed because there aren’t enough staff on the floor.

"Our senior citizens in hospitals and rest homes should be able to trust they will get the care they need when they need it and that their quality of life in their twilight years will be respected. That can’t happen when there are too few staff on hand to respond as needed."

She said COVID-19 has made the problem worse in a sector that relies on overseas nurses and carers to address workforce shortages.

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"We have an escalating crisis here with inadequate staffing regulations and not enough nurses and carers wanting to work in aged care.

"Addressing heavy workloads with mandatory safe staffing would be a great start to retaining experienced and dedicated staff. With the risk of ongoing border restrictions, we need a multipronged approach to attract younger people to care for our seniors including access to affordable education and training to support growing our own.

"Caring for frail and dependant seniors is complex work and requires a high level of skill as well as sufficient staff on the floor now and into the post COVID future."

In the petition and open letter NZNO and E tū call on The Government to mandate minimum staffing levels and skills mixes, and for Government and providers to work with them on solutions to ensure a viable workforce is available and willing to care for an ever-increasing ageing population.

When: Thursday 9 December

Where: Parliament steps, Parliament Buildings, 1 Molesworth Street, Pipitea, Wellington

Time: From 1pm

Available: Members from NZNO and E tū working in aged care will be available for comment at the presentation, as well as a Grey Power representative and E tū and NZNO spokespeople.

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