Hauraki Herald

Staff shortage hits care homes

- SHARNAE HOPE

The community with the largest proportion of elderly in the country is struggling to get staff to care for them as the country’s housing crisis leaves them without anywhere to live.

The bustling Coromandel town of Thames – like many areas nationally – is struggling with housing.

But as rents have risen and more land has been snapped up in the area over the years, it has become harder to attract workers.

Aged-care operator Bupa New Zealand provides care for 238 people at The Booms care home. The lack of housing has had a huge impact on care, with all the facilities in Thames now not taking on any new residents.

‘‘Housing has had a significan­t impact on our business,’’ Bupa national operations manager Sue McLeod said.

In Thames Coromandel, the national aged-care provider has more than 170 employees, yet in Thames alone Bupa is short of 19 people.

When investigat­ing reasons for registered nurses and caregivers declining roles in Thames, McLeod said they are ‘‘constantly’’ informed of the lack of affordable houses to either rent or buy in the township.

‘‘We do actively try to recruit locally, but in reality, at least 80% of our applicatio­ns are from outside the district.’’

Of its current employees, 30% live outside the district and commute.

‘‘Often candidates are single with no personal transport and working rostered shifts, so they prefer to be located closer within the township.’’

As a result, the only aged-care provider in Thames has had to stop accepting new intakes of patients to ensure the ‘‘current residents get the best possible care’’. However, with at least 32% of the district’s population 65 and older compared to the national average of 15%, mayor Sandra Goudie said that leaves a lot of elderly people without support.

‘‘Having shortages of our staff to look after the older population is a serious concern and I can’t state that enough,’’ Goudie said.

‘‘It’s hard enough to get staff in ordinary times, but when you’ve got the added disadvanta­ge of housing, it’s almost impossible.’’

Since becoming mayor in 2016, Goudie said she has been calling for new housing developmen­t in the area but, because of land, zoning and infrastruc­ture constraint­s little has changed since then.

Now it’s not only a struggle to get healthcare workers, but also educators and emergency services staff, she said.

In the past decade, fewer than 40 new houses a year have been built in Thames, with the average age of housing stock now 55 years. She said this has meant housing stock for working families is of low quality and much older than the national average.

‘‘We have to think about the future and Thames coast is not the future for developmen­t.’’

The council has been working on Thames’ spatial planning in hopes of boosting infrastruc­ture in the area, but it has cost ‘‘an arm and a leg’’ and a ‘‘jolly long time’’ to get there, Goudie said.

There is land in Totara Valley, Matatoki North, Puriri and Kauaeranga Valley.

These greenfield areas have the potential to be readily serviced with infrastruc­ture for residentia­l developmen­t of up to 1000 new homes.

The hope is for the Government to come to the party to fix this ‘‘mess’’, while Bupa tries to recruit overseas staff as the borders begin to reopen.

 ?? TOM LEE/STUFF ?? The housing crisis in Thames is affecting the elderly, with aged-care providers unable to find staff. Left, mayor Sandra Goudie says the housing deficit in Thames needs to be addressed.
TOM LEE/STUFF The housing crisis in Thames is affecting the elderly, with aged-care providers unable to find staff. Left, mayor Sandra Goudie says the housing deficit in Thames needs to be addressed.
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