Seniors Care Association calls on government to take it seriously
The CEO of the Aged Care Association calls on the government to take the sector seriously and to provide more support to rural providers.
Simon Wallace said senior care facilities provide $ 5.5 billion worth of services and provide relief to hospitals, but are underfunded by around $ 425 million.
He hoped that the next healthcare reforms would recognize the value of the sector and end postcode healthcare for rural residents.
Health Minister Andrew Little said he meets regularly with Wallace and industry representatives and that supporting the industry is a balancing act, given the wide range of providers – from nonprofits to facilities. commercial.
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Elderly care facilities play an important community role, caring for those who cannot live independently, said Wallace, with the sector providing 40,000 beds in 600 facilities nationwide versus 13,000 beds managed. by district health boards.
“We are preventing the DHBs from overflowing,” he said.
Elderly care facilities have national contracts but are paid by DHB.
The historic funding challenge had worsened as costs rose, Wallace said, especially for the 70 percent of providers that were run by nonprofits.
Elderly care facilities were under pressure to pay higher than usual salaries to attract staff amid a global nursing shortage, while Wallace feared the creation of an Elderly Care Commissioner does add a layer of time-consuming bureaucracy.
He was particularly concerned about the struggling rural nursing homes.
“I have not yet succeeded in putting pressure on the government to understand how important rural nursing homes are,” he said.
These facilities left holes in their communities when they were forced to close, while residents are expected to move away from their families, he said.
There were also challenges regarding the inconsistent use of the interRAI assessment tool, used to determine the level of care residents needed, across the country, Wallace said, which led to failures of exit or to establishments that have had to make other arrangements.
“The system is not broken, it just needs to be improved,” he said.
New Zealand has a good system, but it is fragmented and under “considerable stress,” according to the Health and Disability System report, or the Heather Simpson report. (First published June 2020)
The next health reforms, scheduled for mid-2022, will implement the recommendations of the Health and Disability System Review report published in June 2020.
On residential care for the elderly, the report said, “It is doubtful that the funding model is sustainable, as there is already a narrowing of choice in the range of service providers.”
“The review concluded that a different approach to services for older people is needed and that services for older people need to be thought of together, rather than continuing to look at individual types of services,” he says.
Speaking at a Southern District Health Council meeting in December, senior citizen health portfolio manager Sharon Adler said funding levels were set by the territorial authority, which meant that the DHB paid between $ 149.79 and $ 270.25 per person per night, depending on the area and the level of the board. of care.
The DHB spent 9.5% of its total funding of $ 1.027 billion on elderly care in fiscal year 2020/2021, she said.
On average, 15.9 people per 1,000 people were being cared for in elderly facilities nationwide, Adler said, but that number is expected to increase exponentially over time, with 16,000 Kiwis per year expected to rise. die of dementia by 2038.
Little said he was working with the industry to try to resolve the issues.
A major hurdle had been pay equity for elderly care nurses, but the Department of Health had already committed to parity for elderly care and primary care nurses once the salary increase. backdated to DHB nurses settled.
“We will start negotiations as soon as possible,” Little said.
Helping the elderly care sector was a “constant balancing act” as the sector “straddles a wide range of providers,” he said, referring to commercial providers, small businesses and those run by non-profit organizations.
The government subsidized the industry, he said.