The residential aged care sector says it doesn’t want or need an Aged Care Commission, after it was revealed that Associate Health Minister Jenny Salesa has consulted the Ministry of Health for advice about establishing such an office primarily to address and prevent incidents of poor care.

New Zealand Aged Care Association (NZACA) chief executive Simon Wallace says it is unnecessary to add another layer of bureaucracy to the current system.

Currently, if families have an issue with care provided, they can go directly to the facility, to the DHB and to the Health and Disability Commissioner.

At the recent NZACA conference in Auckland, Deputy Health and Disability Commissioner Rose Wall outlined how the Commission received around 100 complaints a year relating to the sector of which around 20 go to investigation.

Wallace says that considering the sector caters for 36,000 older New Zealanders, the level of complaints represents a very small proportion.

“Is an Aged Care Commissioner going to be set up to deal with 20 complaints a year? It needs to be put into perspective.”

Wallace emphasises that the sector doesn’t condone even one incident of poor care and providers are intent on providing excellent care.

This was showcased by the record number of entries into the Excellence in Care Awards held at the NZACA conference. The Caring for Older Kiwis report published earlier this year also gives evidence, based on interRAI data, of the benefits delivered through rest home care.

“The best thing to do is to work with what we’ve got and to improve the efficiency and timeliness of the complaints process. All an Aged Care Commissioner would do is create another layer of bureaucracy and it’s not necessary,” says Wallace.

However, Grey Power disagrees.

“We do not support in any way tweaking the current system which does not, and in our opinion, never will deliver,” says national president Mac Welsh.

“We strongly believe that the current systems do not work; they are far too fragmented and the definition of the areas of responsibility are very blurred, to put it mildly.”

Grey Power would like to see the Aged Care Commission set up to cover the care of all older people, not just those in rest homes.

However, Wallace believes this should be provided through political leadership. The Minister of Seniors role does not cut it, in his opinion.

“It has too narrow a focus,” he says. “We need a champion for New Zealand’s older people generally, not just those in rest homes and recognize that at the highest possible political level.

“A Minister of Aged Care is needed to recognize the importance of older people in our community. That needs to be championed at a political level – not by a Commission.”

Alzheimers New Zealand chief executive Catherine Hall says there needs to be more resourcing and integration between the different sectors catering for the care and support of older people.

“Many specialist services for the elderly are under pressure due to a lack of resources,” she says. “More effort is needed to ensure care and support services are better integrated and easier to navigate, both in residential care and at home.”

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