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Understaffing’s dire impacts on aged care highlighted

New Zealand Nurses Organisation media release, 19 March 2021

Understaffing in the aged care sector in Aotearoa New Zealand is the focus of this year’s Caregivers Week, which starts on Monday 22 March. 

Understaffing means workers do not have time to provide the best possible care and must often make difficult decisions about how to ration the care they can provide. This takes its toll on care staff and many do unpaid extra hours to get through their work.

NZNO organiser Christina Couling says the people of Aotearoa New Zealand need to know that current staffing levels are inadequate, and that our elderly deserve far better. 

“Currently we don’t have mandatory minimum staffing levels in the aged care sector. The guidelines we do have are optional, very much out of date and do not provide for the increasingly complex health needs of our older New Zealanders. Understaffing impacts directly on our seniors and their opportunity to lead the best lives possible.

“We are campaigning for the Government to introduce legislated (mandatory) minimum staffing levels across the sector. We need more nurses and caregivers on every shift to provide safe care.

“This is imperative if we are to give our elderly the care they deserve in their latter years.”

Ms Couling says the current understaffing and undervaluation of aged care workers has resulted from decades of privatisation.

“The care of our seniors is placed with private companies some of which make massive profits. Our aged care workers give their best to ensure our loved ones are safe and well, but they are constantly being pushed to work harder with less time available to care for residents.

“We can’t let profit get in the way of care. As long as the Government delegates this responsibility to profit-driven companies without sufficient regard for safe staffing, provision of care will suffer.” 

To support the push for mandatory staffing levels the public are urged to sign an open letter to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at

Caregivers Week was established by the New Zealand Nurses Organisation College of Gerontology Nursing to celebrate the significant contribution health care assistants and caregivers to people living in aged residential care. It occurs each year during the last week of March. 


Media inquiries: Rob Zorn, NZNO Media and Communications Advisor: 027 431 2617.

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