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Ryall Says Govt Is Addressing Elder Care Issues

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Tony Ryall
Tony Ryall

Wellington, Oct 15 NZPA - The Government says it is acting to improve aged care after opposition parties' research found serious problems in the sector.

A Report into Aged Care. What does the future hold for older New Zealanders? -- a Labour, Green Party and Grey Power joint-initiative -- was released today.

Their inquiry was held following several high profile cases of ill treatment and deaths in the sector.

The report found rest home residents were routinely sedated to make them easier to manage; elderly were left stranded in their bed for days and many were not tended to regularly for toileting and other needs.

It called for more funding for skilled staff; an Aged Care Commission and Commissioner, and a 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 his Government had moved already to deal with problems and plan for the future.

He criticised Labour's record saying it had nine years to implement measures recommended in the report.

"The Auditor General's report last year damned Labour's neglect of rest home monitoring," he said.

"The OAG was highly critical of the lack of action between 2002 and 2008 and it was particularly critical of the agencies that audit rest homes, and this is a concern that the Government shares.

He said a new Health Quality and Safety Commission was established which would focus on quality improvement across the aged sector while the Health and Disability Commissioner investigated incidents and complaints in aged residential care.

Other developments included spot auditing of rest homes, an extra $88 million over two years to improve the quality of nursing supervision in rest homes and to increase aged care subsidies and more funding for respite care and hospices.

"We are already making significant improvements to health care for older New Zealanders but practical, ground breaking studies like our recently commissioned and completed Aged Residential Care Review will better inform our planning for the future of aged care," Mr Ryall said.

The ARC Review was a collaboration between aged residential care providers, DHBs and the Ministry of Health and describes future demand and capacity over the next ten to twenty years.

Age Concern chief executive Ann Martin said the report gave up to date view of consumers' issues about rest home care.

She said New Zealand needed a better culture of respect for the elderly.

"Other issues of importance are: provision of quality services, staffing, recruitment, remuneration and training, audits, transparency on fees, other models of care.

"We think the information on issues contained in the report, and the suggestions on how rest home services might be improved, will be useful to rest home owners and Government. For example, rest home owners should take note of the public's desire for less institutionalisation and provide more of the type of care residents want."

She said home based support was vital as the aged population grew.

"Remember, most older people live in their own homes, not in rest homes. There are over half a million older New Zealanders, but only around 42,000 people in residential care.

"New Zealand needs a consistently available quality home-based support service to help older people age in their own homes with dignity and respect."

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