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Aged Care Sector Needs Leadership

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Tony Ryall
Tony Ryall

By Kate Chapman of NZPA

Wellington, Oct 15 NZPA - Politicians need to stop bickering over who is at fault over the country's aged care problems and just fix them, an industry boss says.

A damning report on the sector, What does the future hold for older New Zealanders?, a joint initiative by Labour, the Green Party and Grey Power, was released yesterday.

Based on more than 450 submissions from 20 nationwide meetings attended by over 1200 people, and conversations with various experts, nurses and caregivers around the country, it said rest home residents were routinely given anti-psychotic medication to sedate them and make them easier to manage, ignored for long periods of time, not toileted regularly or given adequate treatment for common conditions.

There were also relatively frequent cases of abuse and bullying of staff and residents, said the report, which recommended the appointment of an aged care commissioner and technical working party to address the problems highlighted.

Government-funded training for staff, mandatory staffing levels for nurses, pay-parity with public hospital staff, and unannounced auditing by independent auditors, were also recommended.

Health Minister Tony Ryall said the Government had moved quickly to deal with problems in the sector and the report was too little, too late from Labour.

He said the Health and Disability Commissioner already investigated incidents and complaint in aged residential care.

And Auckland University Associate Professor Matthew Parsons said the report was sensationalist and unhelpful.

"An evidence-based perspective would have been more useful," he said.

But Green MP Sue Kedgley told NZPA Dr Parsons sounded like an out of touch academic.

"We were talking to the grass roots and getting first hand experiences."

She said attempts to criticise the report were aimed at drawing attention away from the issues.

The report had been careful not to lay blame and problems had been accumulating in the sector over decades and needed to be dealt with, Ms Kedgley said.

Dwyane Crombie, chief executive of Bupa Care Services, said the worse outcome of the report would be political posturing.

The sector needed improved training, increased leadership and a focus on quality improvement, he said.

"I don't care if it's National or Labour as long as the buggers do it," he told NZPA.

While the sector was not in crisis there were problems that needed to be addressed for the future, he said.

He agreed with more training for staff but did not believe minimum staff-to-patient ratios were necessary -- it was about quality not quantity.

An aged care commissioner would be good if it provided leadership, Dr Crombie said.

Elder Family Matters general manager Lawrie Stewart said the report failed to promote having quality in-home care.

"An older person's home is more than a place to live -- it's a link to their friends and community."

Giving older people more choice about their care provider and increasing wages were the best ways to increase the quality of in-home care, he said.

Service and Food Workers Union national secretary John Ryall welcomed the report and said it sent a clear message to the Government.

"This is a wake up call."

However, NZ Aged Care Association chief executive Martin Taylor said the report lacked robustness, balance or objectivity.

While the stories told at meetings would have been genuine, 40,000 elderly received care each year in about 700 facilities from 35,000 staff, he said.

"To expect all staff and all residents to do the right thing all of the time is unrealistic."

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