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Charities quitting caring for elderly - RCNZ

Media Release – October 21, 2004

Elderly hospital residents asked to pay more, government exploit caregivers, charities quitting caring for elderly - RCNZ

The district health boards’ under funding of residential care facilities is forcing charities to quit caring for the elderly, an aged care leader said today.

Twenty one district health boards (DHBs) have recommended an 11c an hour average increase to the nations’ struggling private care givers.

Many religious and welfare groups have exited or plan to exit from residential care. Presbyterian Support have sold their facilities in Nelson / Marlborough, Canterbury, Hamilton, Tauranga, Thames, Whakatane, Kerikeri and Auckland.

The Salvation Army have signalled the enormous difficulty they have in surviving.

Since 1998, elderly hospital residents have been asked to contribute $32 a week more to their care, and the government has reduced its contribution over the same period.

Elderly hospital providers are battling for survival as they struggle to deliver the same level of care to their residents.

``The government has purposely devalued the service, but has asked the elderly residents to pay more,’’ Simon O’Dowd, president of the Residential Care New Zealand, said today.

``Funding for care of the elderly has been slashed - but at the same time public hospital spending has ballooned."

The DHBs have increased their spending on staff dramatically - up 32 percent over the last 6 years. However they have refused to provide funding to residential care providers (their contractors) so they can continue to employ a skilled workforce, he said.

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A recent Nurses Organisation survey shows average pay rates of $11.00 an hour and the Government’s response, via the DHBs, takes that to $11.11 an hour.

``This tells us that the Government is not taking the crisis in our sector seriously,’’ Mr O’Dowd said.

``New Zealand is facing an acute shortage of qualified care givers and this pathetic offer will only make matters worse. The whole sector is in a state of shock at the offer and we are urgently considering our options.’’

Charities have traditionally been the major provider of care to the elderly, however government funding freezes have forced them to quit.

``The government has clearly signalled that care of the elderly is not a priority. Their care can no longer be provided on a sustainable basis,’’ Mr O’Dowd said.

Hospitals are under funded by 10 percent, rest homes are under funded by 24 percent and dementia units under funded by 25 percent.

``There needs to be recognition that the sector is substantially under funded and that real wages can only be increased by a considerable increase in the price paid for residential care.

``The aged residential care hospital bed day price has only increased by 8 percent over the last 10 years while the Consumer Price Index has increased by over 21 percent in the same period.’’

The Government was not funding DHBs sufficiently for them to maintain a sustainable service for older people, Mr O’Dowd said.

He said the Government had decided to ``deliberately’’ under fund the aged care sector.

``We have been through frustrating discussions and the clear signal to providers is the Government does not value the services provided to New Zealand's oldest and most vulnerable citizens."

The district health boards’ offer affected over 800 aged care providers who employ more than 25,000 staff in resthomes and hospitals.


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