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Looming Crisis in Rural Aged Care Services

Looming Crisis in Rural Aged Care Services

October 19, 2008

The elderly in rural areas will miss out on care due to ever increasing elderly populations, rural rest home closes, and government underfunding.

This reality has been accepted by Otago and Southland DHBs who this week acknowledged that the bed situation was 'tight' and that people were waiting for beds. If this situation does not change an aged care crisis will occur.

"HCPNZ members are saying that there are no hospital or dementia beds in Dunedin or Invercargill, which is causing considerable stress on the elderly and their families. They just don't know what to do, the care is needed but no one can provide it", said Martin Taylor CEO of Health Care Providers NZ

"One impact of the shortage which isn't well understood is the pressure it puts on the families to find any bed, and this means they have no choice but to accept a bed even if it's a long way away. This means an elderly family members have to drive long distances to see their wife or husband, and this is both expensive and physically hard" . "Another impact is on DHBs who will have to look after the elderly in their hospitals and rehabilitation wards, which costs four times more than it the private sector, and will take resources away from elective and emergency services. In other words the DHB will cease to function effectively and exist on code red".

"The base cause of the problem rests with aged care funding not being inflation proofed, or insulated from cost shocks such as large increases in Nurse wages. In reality the only way to survive is for facilities to get bigger and bigger and this is just not possible for providers located in rural or suburban communities."

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Another example of rural service in crisis comes from Queenstown.

"In Queenstown the current aged care funding is just to low to attract a private provider and Southland DHB refuses to build one because it is too expensive and the DHB sees no problem with people having to travel to get the services they need".

"Political parties must ensure that the elderly living in rural areas can find a bed when and where they need it."

About 200 of the country's smaller aged care providers are located in rural communities or suburban areas.


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