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Home Health Conference Focusses On Economic Challenges

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Home Health Conference Focusses On Economic Challenges

The challenge of providing care for the sick, elderly and disabled in a tight economy with rocketing health costs will occupy the minds of delegates attending a conference of home health providers in Auckland this week.

The conference, themed, Dollars & Sense, is being hosted by the New Zealand Home Health Association, which represents 64 organisations that provide health care, personal care and support for people living in their own homes. Members include both private and not-for-profit organisations across New Zealand.

The three-day conference is being opened by Associate Health Minister Jonathan Coleman who is expected to address issues such as low pay rates for home support workers and industry demands for mandatory minimum standards.

Keynote speakers include Australian nursing academic, Joanne Hope-Murray, who will talk about how loneliness, helplessness and boredom can be problems for home-based elderly. Economist Brian Easton will look at who should bear the burden of the rising costs of aged care and disability services; while journalist and commentator Rod Oram will consider how communities can contribute to the care of the elderly.

NZHHA Chief Executive, Julie Haggie, says how to fund increasing demands for home-based services is a major issue for the industry and for government. She says that members' businesses are stretched to breaking point, and several have gone out of business.

"Our member organisations are doing their best to find innovative solutions but sustainable funding models are needed to allow providers to maintain their current level of safe service and to cater for increasing demands."

Ms Haggie says low rates of pay for home support workers continue to threaten and frustrate the industry. She says the ability for many New Zealanders to remain safely in their home relies on regular visits from home support workers, many of whom are on the minimum wage despite being asked to deliver increasingly complex care.

"These unsung heroes are saving the health system money by assisting people - whether elderly or in recovery or with complex health needs - to retain their independence in their homes for longer, reducing the length of hospital stays, and helping people stay more connected to their communities.

"That contribution is undervalued and undermined by funding decisions that push provider businesses to, and beyond, breaking point. Provider members of the New Zealand Home Health Association have developed cost-efficient models of support that, when piloted, have delivered impressive outcomes in terms of improved client health. They have much to offer those making strategic decisions on public health funding."

Ms Haggie says she doesn't expect the conference to come up with all the answers but believes it will provide a forum to discuss a way forward and focus attention on a sector that plays a crucial role in improving the quality of life of thousands of New Zealanders.

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