Aged care boost has its catches
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.