The aged care sector is fast reaching crisis point, and comprehensive changes are needed, including mandatory staffing ratios, minimum training levels, the establishment of an Aged Care Commissioner, and a shift in emphasis towards ageing in place, if chronic problems in the sector are to be addressed, an extensive inquiry into the sector has found.
Labour, the Greens and Grey Power will today in Parliament launch the findings of the inquiry, in a report entitled: 'A Report into Aged Care. What does the future hold for older New Zealanders?'
The report has produced 14 key recommendations (see below), based on more than 450 submissions from 20 nationwide meetings attended by more than 1200 people, and conversations with various experts, nurses and caregivers around the country.
"The report pulls no punches and makes it clear we are failing in the way we provide care for older New Zealanders," Labour's Health spokesperson Ruth Dyson said.
Green Party Aged Care spokesperson Sue Kedgley said: "Our investigation shows that problems in the sector are chronic and widespread, and that we are systematically failing some of our oldest and most vulnerable citizens. With no regulations around minimum staffing levels or training, the care provided to older New Zealanders is utterly inconsistent, and often woefully inadequate."
"We heard many shocking stories of neglect and abuse -of residents suffering from chronic dehydration or malnutrition, being left in bed for entire weekends, or left for hours after a fall; of residents not being walked or toileted regularly, resulting in incontinence and loss of mobility."
"We also heard many stories of residents who had not received proper medical treatment for common conditions such as urinary tract infections, bed sores, skin tears and falls."
Ruth Dyson said: "We need a new long-term coordinated national strategy and action plan that establishes better systems and care across the sector, as well as greater transparency, accountability and monitoring.
"One of the central strands of the strategy recognises that many older New Zealanders want to 'age in place', remaining in their homes for as long as possible, to have greater independence and flexibility, to live fuller lives for longer.
"Well-regulated, quality assured rest homes that put residents first would remain an important part of the new system, but a greater emphasis on alternatives including well-supported ageing at home, community-based models of care and supported housing is the future.
"To achieve that we need to attract many more staff to the sector and ensure they are better trained and paid. Currently, rest homes receive $800 million in taxpayer funding each year. It makes sense to invest more of that funding into professionalising the workforce to support the new, less rigid models, rather than building more and more rest homes," Ruth Dyson said.
"An Aged Care Commissioner needs to be appointed as a priority, to improve the quality of care across the sector; investigate the issues raised in this report, and develop a long term national Aged Care strategy. A star rating system for all aged care facilities would also go a long way to lifting standards," Sue Kedgley said.
Grey Power President Roy Reid said: "The time has come to grasp the nettle and rethink the way older people are cared for in New Zealand.
"Too many people are receiving inadequate care and deserve better. That is obvious. But the process we undertook is not about finger-pointing. That's a complete waste of time.
"Rather, the inquiry sought to capture, and I think has done very clearly, a range of ideas to establish a much-needed comprehensive and coordinated new model of care for the twenty first century.
"As a non politically aligned organisation, Grey Power sincerely hopes the nation's decision-makers read the report in full and that its recommendations will form the basis for a new era in aged care," Roy Reid said.
• Establish an independent Aged Care Commission and Commissioner.
• Establish a technical working party - made up of experts from industry, including providers, consumers, and aged care specialists and the unions.
• Government funded training provided to all aged care staff - in residential and home based support services.
• Minimum staffing levels for nurses and caregivers to be mandated in regulations.
• A star rating system for aged care facilities to be developed and made publicly available on the Aged Care Commissioner's website.
• Unannounced focused audits by accredited independent auditors.
• All residential aged care facilities and home based support service providers to operate under greater transparency and accountability.
• Pay parity for aged care staff (including residential and home based support) with staff working in public hospitals and the community.
• A national contract for home care workers and aged residential care workers.
• Greater consistency for home support services.
• National face-to-face standardised model for home based assessments.
• More integrated networks for home support services.
• More specialist gerontology training offered across the sector to address the desperate shortage of specialist services.
• Consistent packages for dementia patients.