New Zealand Nurses Organisation media release, 22 June 2022.
The New Zealand Nurses Organisation Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa (NZNO) says the Aged Care sector is in dire straits without mandated minimum safe staffing levels.
In 2020, between 200 and 300 Section 31 notices were submitted to the Ministry of Health notifying of the health and safety risks to patients caused by understaffing.
841 were submitted in 2021. Now 841 have been submitted between January and April of 2022 alone.
Chair of the NZNO College of Gerontology Natalie Seymour says the Aged Care sector is in crisis.
“Nurses are doing 12-16 hour shifts without a proper stand down period. I recently worked a 93 ½ hour week and this is getting more and more common.
“We have a huge shortfall of qualified registered and enrolled nurses, which is having a massively negative impact. I manage a facility with four nurses on the floor for 75 patients who require specialist care.
“The voluntary standards for our aged care facilities say each patient needs only need half an hour of one nurse’s care. But our ageing population are sicker, older, and more acute. The patients we have need much more care than half an hour a day.”
Ms Seymour says Aged Care facilities are responding to understaffing by refusing to fill beds.
“790 beds were closed this past year. When this happens it backs up hospitals, which are already over capacity, or leads to people being discharged when they shouldn’t be, burdening their whānau and communities.
“In order to make up the wages we have to increase room charges, and these are already $1500-2500 per week. We have people selling the family home to pay for care.”
Ms Seymour told the Health Select Committee this morning that a standardised acuity tool is needed that would help set staff/patient ratios that ensure clinically and culturally safe care for our patients.
“But we must also address the disparity between DHB and Aged Care worker pay, which can be up to $20,000, and this makes it incredibly difficult to recruit and retain staff.
“We do our best to pick up the pieces and support families through their grieving, to give them the care, support, and touch they deserve in their dying days. But the reality is no longer possible for our burned out Aged Care nurses and health workers.”
Media inquiries: Rob Zorn, NZNO Media and Communications Advisor: 027 431 2617.