The New Zealand Herald

Aged suffer ‘postcode care’

Rest-home owners’ report highlights regional difference­s in waiting times for admission

- Nicholas Jones

New Zealanders face delays getting into a rest home depending on their district health board — with the difference in waiting time up to seven months, a new report claims.

Health Minister David Clark will consider the report, but says it was done for a sector lobby group “so I expect it will reflect their interests”.

The NZ Aged Care Associatio­n yesterday released the report based on more than 300,000 clinical assessment­s over the past three years.

It says the analysis reveals “postcode healthcare”, with more than half of the country’s DHBs delaying access to rest homes once a person is assessed as needing such care.

“This can have serious consequenc­es for their health,” said Simon Wallace, chief executive of the associatio­n, which represents about 90 per cent of rest homes and aged care facilities.

“The analysis clearly shows the significan­t benefits of aged residentia­l care ... It also shows that many elderly people are missing out on improved or stable health because of where they live.

“Postcode healthcare is simply not acceptable in New Zealand.”

About 36,000 people are in agedcare facilities. The associatio­n said its analysis of clinical assessment­s showed rest-home care brought a range of health benefits over a six-month period after entering care.

Of those who felt lonely at the time of their final home care assessment, 82 per cent reported no longer feeling lonely after about six months of aged care. Sixty-three per cent had better pain levels, and 60 per cent had less risk of developing pressure ulcers.

Wallace said the associatio­n wanted to work with the Government to make sure that as New Zealand’s population aged there was a policy and funding framework that let people access aged care when needed, no matter where they lived. “If an older person lives in the Hawke’s Bay DHB region, for example, and is at the point they are needing aged residentia­l care, they will wait on average seven months longer [ than someone] in neighbouri­ng MidCentral.” The report looked at the median length of time it took for a person to move into aged care after hitting a certain priority level in their home care assessment. Nationally, the median in 2016/17 was four months. It was 9.7 months in Hawke’s Bay DHB’s catchment, 7.5 months in the Bay of Plenty, 4.1 months in Auckland, 3.3 months in Waikato, 2.5 months in Northland and 2.1 months in Waitemata DHB. A statement by Health Minister

HGo to to see the findings on your DHB David Clark said the report was received by the Ministry of Health yesterday, but he had not yet received advice on it. He pointed out it was the work of a lobby group.

“It’s a report by a sector lobby group so I expect it will reflect their interests, and I understand it hasn’t been peer-reviewed or opened to a wider review process.”

Clark said the challengin­g task for Government was to balance the industry desire to have more people in aged care with making sure there was adequate care, and giving support to people who wanted to live at home for longer.

Roy Reid, chair of Grey Power Federation, said in a forward to the report that the analysis of the “interRAI” clinical assessment data raised serious questions.

“A generation of policy makers have developed care for the elderly based on the assumption that we are ‘better off’ in our own homes . . . we cannot assume that elderly people have family or help nearby.”

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