Enliven is joining the chorus of aged residential care providers across New Zealand calling on the government to do more to support New Zealand’s elders.
The global nursing shortage has far-reaching consequences across the New Zealand health sector and worldwide.
Enliven Central general manager Nicola Turner says the issue for aged residential care is being compounded by chronic under-funding by successive governments for many years.
“Aged residential care providers like Enliven are not even funded so we can offer our nurses pay parity with their DHB counterparts. New Zealand’s aged care nurses are being lured to hospitals and overseas where they can earn significantly more,” says Turner.
NZ Aged Care Association Chief Executive Simon Wallace says there is no good reason for the pay disparity.
“A scoping exercise in 2020 between the aged care sector, DHBs and the Ministry of Health found the performance of an aged care nurse comparable to a nurse working in a DHB.
“It could even be argued an aged care nurse’s role is more challenging and demanding, given they don’t have doctors or specialists on hand, and lead teams of healthcare assistants and other support workers,” explains Wallace.
Turner agrees saying the underfunding is unjust and unfair.
“It’s New Zealand’s elders that are losing out when we cannot recruit nurses into aged care. Are New Zealand’s elders not as important as patients in hospital beds? We would say they are, yet government funding does not demonstrate that.”
Rest homes operated by listed companies, not-for-profits and private organisations have all been forced to close admissions to hospital care beds as the nursing shortage bites and they struggle to attract and retain nurses.
For Enliven that has meant being forced to temporarily relocate hospital-level care residents from Chalmers Home in New Plymouth and Cashmere Home in Wellington to other homes.
“Having to move our much-loved elders has been devasting, but we have a duty to make sure they are receiving the best possible care,” says Turner.
The nursing shortage is particularly challenging in Enliven Central’s Taranaki and Wellington regions where nurses coming into the region struggle to find affordable housing.
“Every day we are receiving calls from people who are in tears because their elderly loved one is in hospital and they can not find a hospital level care bed in a rest home. We have public hospital staff getting frustrated with us because those people are ‘blocking’ public hospital beds. It’s a dire situation.”
Turner doesn’t believe there is a “silver bullet” that will fix the situation but is calling for government to work together to address issues around aged residential care funding including pay parity for aged care nurses with their DHB counterparts, affordable housing supply and to fast track the immigration of nurses and their families.
She says the aged care sector has been calling out for help from successive governments for many years, but it has fallen on “deaf ears”.
“Even the new Health Authority seems to be ignoring New Zealand’s older people. The goals of the authority are completely silent on outcomes for elders who have done so much throughout their lives for our country.”
For Enliven Central, the focus remains on putting resident care and support at the centre of all they do. No matter how dire the situation is, Enliven has no plans to close any of its homes between Taranaki and Wellington, nor are jobs at risk.
“As we take an active role in lobbying the government it is important that we highlight that we’re here to stay. We’ve been around more than 100 years and we’ll be around 100 more,” says Turner.
In the meantime, Enliven is encouraging nurses looking for a rewarding career to consider Enliven.
“We’re actively recruiting more nurses from both New Zealand and overseas. We have an amazing training programme for nurses including a First Year of Practice Programme for new nurses, a Nursing Council approved Professional Development and Recognition Programme, and a Competency Assessment Programme for nurses returning to practice or coming from overseas.”
Aged care fact sheet
The aged care sector is complex and complicated. Many people don’t understand the difference between the types of care and how it is funded. This fact sheet provides some important background information.
- Retirement villages and aged residential care are both part of the wider aged care industry:
- Retirement villages refers to independent living in villas or apartments.
- Aged residential care refers to rest home, hospital, dementia and psychogeriatric care where residents receive daily living support from staff, including nurses.
- There are approximately 41,000 aged residential care beds in New Zealand compared to 14,000 beds in the country’s public hospitals.
- Retirement villages and aged residential care are funded completely differently.
- Retirement village prices and costs are set by the provider and are market driven.
- Aged residential care pricing is set by government each year. It is the same for all providers.
- Aged residential care residents are means tested to determine how much of their care is funded by government and how much they must pay for privately.
- The funding issues the aged care sector are calling for government to address are in relation to aged residential care. It is nothing to do with retirement villages.
- Government funding for aged residential care varies between area and care type, however it is significantly less than the Government funding provided for hospital beds.
- For example, an aged residential care facility is funded approximately $150-$250 per bed, per day. DHBs are funded approximately $1,000 per public hospital bed per day.
- The extremely limited government funding means that aged residential care providers sometimes charge additional costs on to residents:
- The government sets a limit to how much and what can be charged for, and any additional fees must be optional.
- Optional fees may include an accommodation supplement (for a larger room or private ensuite), a special menu (only the cost difference between the basic menu and the special menu can be charged), outings, non-subsidised medicines, special chairs used only by the resident, podiatry and onsite hairdresser.