Aged care boost has its catches

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By JIM CHIPP

A Gov­ern­ment boost to aged care sub­si­dies is ac­tu­ally much lower than the 5 per cent that de­part­ing Min­is­ter of Health Tony Ryall an­nounced last month.

Ryall and As­so­ciate Min­is­ter, Jo Good­hew, an­nounced a 5 per cent in­crease in the Gov­ern­ment sub­sidy to rest homes from Oc­to­ber 1, or $7.5 mil­lion for the rest of this year and $10 mil­lion each year for suc­ces­sive full years. Nurses Or­gan­i­sa­tion in­dus­trial ad­viser, David Wait, said the 5 per cent in­crease ap­plied only to rest home ac­com­mo­da­tion, not to hos­pi­tal-level care, psy­cho-geri­atric care or de­men­tia care.

Although it was very dif­fi­cult to work out how much the to­tal sub­sidy amounted to, in­clud­ing all those dif­fer­ent types, he thought it was $985 mil­lion.

The rate in­crease amounted to about 1 per cent of the to­tal, he said.

‘‘I would de­scribe it as 5 per cent when you want to an­nounce 5 per cent, but it is not ac­tu­ally 5 per cent,’’ he said.

For some it was ac­tu­ally a cost in­crease.

Some rest home and hos­pi­tal res­i­dents were not sub­sidised at all.

If their to­tal as­sets ex­ceeded $214,000 they had to pay for their own care, un­til their net worth fell be­low $214,000 and sub­si­dies be­gan to ap­ply.

How much they paid each week was linked to the rest home sub­sidy, so those res­i­dents had ef­fec­tively been handed a 5 per cent cost in­crease, he said.

New Zealand Aged Care As­so­ci­a­tion chief ex­ec­u­tive, Martin Tay­lor, de­scribed the an­nounce­ment as a good start.

Though, he said that care­givers, unions and em­ploy­ers would need to un­der­stand that a 5 per cent in­crease in rest home level care fund­ing did not equate to a 5 per cent in­crease in av­er­age care­giver wages — ‘‘not even close’’.

Good­hew said about 32,000 res­i­dents lived in more than 600 rest homes in New Zealand, while more than 45,000 peo­ple with de­men­tia were liv­ing in the com­mu­nity.

‘‘As our age­ing pop­u­la­tion grows, de­mand for aged care ser­vices will also grow,’’ she said.

Of the 32,000 res­i­dents, about 49 per cent were at rest home level, 38 per cent were at hos­pi­tal level and 13 per cent were in de­men­tia/ psy­cho- geri­atric beds.

Res­i­den­tial aged care work­ers were paid less than their dis­trict health board coun­ter­parts, owing to low gov­ern­ment fund­ing.

‘‘This is a good step in the right di­rec­tion,’’ Tay­lor said.

‘‘But it is not enough to achieve pay par­ity just yet,’’ he said.

Ryall said it was up to providers to de­cide how the ex­tra money was spent, but he ex­pected many would use it to in­crease wages.

Another $2.5 mil­lion in one-off fund­ing will go to­wards im­ple­ment­ing de­men­tia care path­ways, in dis­trict health boards and com­mu­ni­ties, he said.

Tony Ryall

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