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Radius Care have noticed that New Zealand’s aged care sector is experiencing a chronic nursing shortage and we now have a crisis situation on our hands. Immigration laws and procedures have made recruiting nurses from overseas tougher, while our local nurses are leaving residential aged care in droves to take up higher paying positions in our public hospitals. Underpinning this is the fact that the funding model for nurses working in aged care is deeply flawed. They earn only a pittance more than their unqualified colleagues working in the industry.
The question on everyone’s lips is, how much longer before we see some really disturbing examples of how this national nursing shortage impacts our elderly?
To keep aged care facilities operating safely and with the high levels of care that residents need these days, owners and managers are stepping up and filling the gaps.
In March this year, Stuff reported that about one in five aged care nurses are employed in New Zealand on a work visa, and in Aged Care it is as high as 30 percent. As an industry, they rely on overseas workers to operate, and Radius Care facilities, like their competitors, have many highly trained, motivated, visa-holding workers on their staff, providing much needed and exceptional care to their residents.
The New Zealand government needs to step up and make an immediate, positive difference to the elderly being cared for around the country, and improve the care of our aged population by adding registered nurses to the Long-Term Skills Shortage List. This delivers a pipeline of highly skilled workers to care for our elderly and gives immigrant nurses the security they need to move with their families to New Zealand.
The government also need to do whatever it takes to incentivise nurses into aged care. Residential aged care facilities simply can’t afford to match the DHB’s pay rates. As compensation to their nurses, Radius Care have begun negotiating with various outlets and providers to offer attractive staff discounts for everything from groceries, fuel, clothing and footwear, to electronics and dining out.
The funding model for the aged care sector has not been reviewed by the government for 20 years, and this outdated model does not recognise the change in the services that facilities provide and the change in residents’ needs.
New Zealand has a fast growing aging population, and within ten years, there is likely to be a 75 percent increase in demand for aged care caregivers and nurses, as an estimated 20,000 more people will need residential aged care facilities. If measures are not put in place to remove the current stresses on the industry now, the situation will only worsen and our elderly will be the ones that suffer most.