New Zealand Nurses Organisation media release, 12 March 2019
EMBARGOED UNTIL 1PM, 13 MARCH 2019
The New Zealand Nurses Organisation and E tū are holding a summit in Wellington today (13 March) calling for a review of staffing standards for residential aged care – and for new and better standards to be made mandatory. The organisations are also launching a report on their joint research which reveals that standard care is missed or delayed in almost every shift, and that aged care staff frequently face distress and exhaustion in their work.
NZNO Industrial Advisor Aged Care David Wait says the public would be shocked at the findings of the research which was conducted in late 2018.
“We think New Zealanders care very much about the health, wellbeing and dignity of our seniors and would agree that the way we care for them reflects back on all of us.
“Our research shows aged care residents’ immediate emotional and physical needs often go unmet because staff are forced to ration the way they care, and if you’re not a priority you miss out.
“Right now aged care under-staffing is hurting everybody, and we’re confident the public will back our call for the government to review existing standards.”
David Wait said the current standards were published in 2005 and were inadequate even then.
“Things have changed dramatically since 2005. We have more people in aged care, they’re entering facilities later in life with much greater care needs and they’re living longer.
“What’s worse is that our current standards are completely voluntary and recent evidence shows, for example, that more than half of aged care providers deliver less registered nurse time than is recommended for hospital and dementia level patients.”
He also said medical conditions associated with care rationing, such as pressure ulcers and injuries from falls, would occur less frequently if we had better staffing, saving New Zealand money while we provide better care.
NZNO delegate and registered nurse Sacha Young says if there were enough staff to meet residents’ needs, people in aged care would have much better physical and emotional wellbeing.
“We don’t have time to do simple things like help residents take short walks, or sit with them for a few minutes when they are distressed.
“Not being able to do this puts a lot of stress on staff who would love to be able to provide better quality care. They often feel guilty or unfulfilled in their work and that’s a very unpleasant situation for everyone.”
She said a simple solution, however, would be to review the Staffing Standards and set mandatory minimum staffing numbers.
“It’s time to set staffing levels high enough to ensure our residents are always in safe hands.”
Rob Zorn, NZNO Media and Communications Advisor: 027 431 2617.
About the summit
The summit will be held at St John’s Presbyterian Church, 170 Willis St, Te Aro, Wellington 6011. The start time is 1pm, but media are welcome from 12.30pm.
The report will be launched at the summit. In attendance will be NZNO and E tū leadership in aged care, Grey Power, politicians including Jan Logie, and a range of delegates and aged care workers from around the country. All will be happy to speak to the media.
About the report
In safe hands? How poor staffing levels and rationed care are harming aged care residents and staff
- This report is based on research by the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) and E tū which was undertaken in 2018 to examine the current state of aged care in New Zealand. What it reveals is a broken system, which endangers residents and takes a heavy toll on nurses and caregivers.
- The research records the results of a survey by NZNO and E tū of 1194 people working in aged care facilities (rest homes, dementia units and hospitals) including registered nurses, enrolled nurses, caregivers and managers.
- Care rationing – 'the withholding or failure to carry out necessary nursing tasks due to inadequate time, staffing level, and/or skill mix'.
- Three quarters (73.45%) of those surveyed either disagreed or strongly disagreed that staffing levels were sufficient to provide quality care for residents.
- 81% of staff say the care needs of residents have increased significantly over the last few years. Most report they are not able to get more staff when residents need more care.
Many more facts and statistics are available in the report which can be viewed online at https://www.flexmediagroup.co.nz/in-safe-hands/index.html.
PDF copies of the report can be requested from Rob Zorn: firstname.lastname@example.org | 027 431 2617.
Quotes from respondents to the survey (included in the report)
“I love my job, I love the residents I work with and I love the feeling of being able to make a difference. But that can only take you so far. We need help and we need it now!”
“It is clear to staff that we do not have enough time to see to residents’ most basic physical needs let alone emotional and psychological needs. For example we have no time to sit with distressed, unhappy residents and simply talk with them.”
“Staff feel like they are providing a below par service. We work extra time for free and go home exhausted and some days crying as we didn’t manage to do everything people wanted.”
“I dread to go back to work at times.”
“Residents don't report injuries to us because they think we are too busy. In one case this has meant an assisted living resident had infected wounds no-one knew about, which he later died from."
"Residents worry they are a burden and won't ring the bell because they know we are busy, so lie in pain rather than ‘making a fuss’."
“The effect on residents is that they don’t get all of the 'little' things they want and need, a cup of tea, the toilet when they really need it, their teeth brushed, lipstick put on, regular turns to keep bed-ridden residents comfortable or even just a hug, a laugh or conversation.”
“Sometimes in the rush residents are processed like products in a factory in order to get through the workload.”
“I leave the rest home, sit in my car and cry, I'm so exhausted and depressed, and angry… our residents are not getting quality care, actually some are getting no care, or very little care."
“I feel relief to have survived a shift without an incident and immense dismay and dissatisfaction about a job not able to be well done.”