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Caution, Consultation Required Before Moving Elderly From Christchurch

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The New Zealand Aged Care Association is calling for caution and consultation between providers and the district health board before initiating further moves of residents from Christchurch rest homes.

Martin Taylor, the Chief Executive of the Association (NZACA) said today that aged residential providers and the Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) have done an amazing job looking after the elderly in trying times.

In the immediate aftermath of the February earthquake, there was no option but to move 300 elderly residents to Dunedin, Nelson, Wellington and Auckland. It is also apparent the lack of capacity has lead the CDHB to propose moving more elderly out of Christchurch to create vacancies to shift others back into the city.

"However, before more of our elderly are moved it is the view of the Association that government, providers and the DHB must work together to ensure the disruption to their lives is minimal and the move has the support of the resident's families," Mr Taylor said.

"The earthquake and its consequences have placed huge stresses on elderly residents. Not only are they unsure about how long the aftershocks will last and if there will be further damage, they are also having to cope with being moved to other rest homes and in some cases other towns and cities. Most residents in aged residential care in Christchurch are feeling extremely vulnerable since February 22."

"The NZACA is aware of the pressure on the CDHB. But there is now more time to reconsider these actions, and more to time plan. It is important that residents and families are fully informed about plans and that they support the decisions made by the Health Board about where they or their parents are going to live."

Mr Taylor said this approach must be collaborative and must happen immediately, as over the last few days many families have been surprised by some CDHB decisions regarding moving their loved ones, and this is causing worry and angst.

Families have approached the NZACA seeking information about the legal ability of the CDHB to move residents. "If a resident can be safely looked after in their rest home and that rest home agrees to look after them, then they cannot be removed without their consent."

If elderly residents cannot safely be cared for, then they may need to be moved from Christchurch. But before this takes place, all options must be discussed with family. Some residents, for example, may prefer to share a room instead of being removed from Christchurch."

Mr Taylor added that the CDHB should also consider the feasibility of opening temporary geriatric wards within the region to keep the elderly close to their families.

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