CANZ does not believe that the situation as described in the Herald’s recent Editorial article is common within the aged care residential sector. In fact it appears to have been sensationalised to some degree and this is absolutely unfair to the hundreds of aged care providers and their staff who work so hard day and night on behalf of the older people in New Zealand. It is not an easy task. Certainly things can go wrong. Consider the numbers in aged care. Consider also the number of aged care facilities. Consider the age of entry and the ensuing frailty of those in care.

There was reference to the Pay Equity Settlement. A landmark case yes – and the increased pay is richly deserved. But how many of the general public know how poorly the funding was allocated and how many facilities had to make staff cuts and redundancies in order to make the sums work? For some it was impossible and there were closures as a direct result of this funding inadequacy. A significant number had to have a monetary top-up in order to continue in business. It is unlikely to be any better this year and some facilities are waiting anxiously to see if they will have adequate funding for the 2018 – 2019 pay equity settlement. If not, then there will be more closures and more disruption to vulnerable lives.

Requirements under the auditing regime are extremely stringent and it beggars belief that any facility is able to flout the regulations to the degree intimated in the article. There is an audit generally every 18 months. One is unannounced, and there is a six-month window within which the auditors may arrive, and the other is arranged. The audits are very stringent and the auditors are there to find errors and mistakes – no matter how minor. They do this by delving into every single aspect of the running of the facility. Where findings are raised both the Ministry of Health and the local DHB are involved and the facility must rectify any deficiencies within a very short order.

Aged care facilities have to ensure that all staff are educated and there are, again, strict processes for this. And this education must continue all the time that staff are employed.

Some years ago there was an attempt to put some figures around staffing. But the work was quietly side-lined for at least two reasons – one was that that the cost would have been prohibitive and the other was that there was a dearth of registered nurses.

How funny to read that taxpayers should accept any further rises in care costs. The sector would welcome this. There is an on-going, uphill struggle to meet the demands that are put upon aged care providers by all and sundry. What is more likely is that more facilities will close if funding does not keep pace with rising costs and expectations and the future of some of the aged in society will not be a rest home, no matter how poor the care may be, but somewhere far worse – a boarding house perhaps, or the street.

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