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Campaign Demands Mandatory Minimum Staffing Numbers In Aged Residential Care

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) and E tū, with the support of Grey Power, launched an online open letter to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern yesterday pushing for mandatory minimum staffing numbers of nurses and caregivers in relation to resident numbers in the aged care sector.

Actions to support the nationwide #safestaffingnow campaign will also be taking place around the country in the coming weeks.

NZNO member and Registered Nurse Jean Al-Daghestani says not having enough staff with the right skills to care for increasingly frail and dependant residents is unsafe and unacceptable.

"The reality for those of us working in aged care is that we just don’t have enough time to do what we know is best for our residents. This takes an incredible toll on our emotional wellbeing as front line workers.

"As a society we need to value our older citizens more, and the Government’s commitment to this call is crucial for change - regardless of who leads us after the election."

In 2010, Labour recommended compulsory minimum staffing guidelines and referred to the sector as ‘desperate for a revolution’.

Recommendations from the Human Rights Commission report Caring Counts, published in 2012, included the voluntary standard "Indicators for safe aged-care and dementia-care for consumers" becoming compulsory (rather than mere guidelines) to ensure the protection of both carers and older people.

However, Ms Al-Daghestani says 10 years on, the Health & Disability Services Core Sector Standards do not include mandatory staffing regulations."

"There is ample research showing the benefits of the right number of staff on duty: reduced falls and injuries, reduced medication errors and far better outcomes for our most frail senior residents. Unsafe aged care staffing is a therefore poor reflection on all of us."

NZNO Industrial Advisor Lesley Harry says the sector’s profit-driven model is to blame because understaffing reduces costs at the expense of quality care.

"The health needs of our most vulnerable seniors must be an integral part of the health sector not its poor cousin. Past government confidence in employers’ voluntary compliance with outdated and inadequate staffing requirements is no longer sustainable and is completely at odds with the current government’s compassionate and kind image."

NZNO is encouraging New Zealanders to share and sign the open letter to Jacinda Ardern at www.together.org.nz/safestaffingnow.

Recommendations from the Human Rights Commission report Caring Counts published in 2012 included the voluntary standard "Indicators for safe aged-care and dementia-care for consumers" becoming compulsory (rather than mere guidelines) to ensure the protection of both carers and older people.

The #safestaffingnow campaign was launched at Woburn House, 57 Wai-iti Crescent, Lower Hutt on Tuesday 21 July at 3.30pm.

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