Filipino Carers Suffer

Author Judith Holloway, lyricist for a new National Anthem

New Government must sort out rest home scandal

By Judith Bryers Holloway, In Levin

I’ve been reading recently about Filipino nurses and carers employed in our ‘rest’ and ‘care’ homes who are subjected to unfair and absurd conditions! (article by Helen King in  Dominion Post, Dec. 4)

Filipino nurses recruited for NZ hospital work

Yet I shouldn’t be surprised as this is on a par with the poor working conditions under which other staff, including native-born Kiwis, suffer.

They are hard-working, kindly, cheerful and good at what they do.They are contracted to be on call at the will of management, have few of the employment rights that used to be part-and-parcel of all NZ workers’ expectations. They are threatened with dismissal if they object to too-long hours, the burden of extra tasks, of ‘spilling the beans’ about management. This is Dickensian.

I am preparing to write a report – featuring not only my own story, but the stories of other horrified clients/residents of such places – for presentation to our new Government, the new Minister of Health, and the Health & Disabilities Commissioner — who are feeling aggrieved in our particular region, Levin.

Sub-standard conditions

I’ve had the misfortune to be witness to what’s going on in a very substandard ‘rest home – hospital care unit’ in Levin over the last five months and have watched in horror, protesting loudly, as my partner (incarcerated there –  not by me!) has suffered from disgraceful, dangerous practices.
All rest homes, whether they are any good or not, receive $270 per day to look after each inmate/patient. If people don’t have much property,  this money comes from taxpayers. 
Basically, the poor inmates (all in their 70s and  80s, probably) are zonked out on drugs and are fed, cleaned, watered, toileted, bedded down. No therapy. No companionship – except from their own families if they happen to be lucky enough to have them visit.

 Care on the cheap

It’s a very cheap way to deal with people down on their brain cells and physical ability. It saves massively on staff and therapeutic equipment.
There are legal patient-staff ratios which are constantly broken. There is dishonest record-keeping. Patients are constantly falling and hurting themselves before they can be rescued. (The stupidity of the ‘no-restraint’ rule are beyond belief!)
Patient in hospital bed with restraints
This rule is certainly not practised in the public hospitals which have restraints on beds and ‘minders’ in constant attendance.) There is not proper medical specialist care, just a visiting GP on contract. Though all the patients are old, there is not even a requirement, apparently, for a geriatrician to be part of the consultative process.
A patient is lucky it he/she is not dished out toxic drugs. My partner (aged 87) –  until I intervened strongly, after some research with experts –  was put on a drug which the medical ‘bible’ on drugs (MIMS) warns against being given to elderly patients with dementia as it can cause severe psychosis.

Disgraceful ‘care’ as patients suffer alone

 It sure did. My partner’s psychotic episodes had him thrashing about, virtually naked, alone in his miserable room, in the dark, no one seeing to him, grazing and cutting himself all over on carpet and sharp edges of furniture, smashing his head, breaking his ribs. Three times he had to be rushed by ambulance to hospital. When I made a fuss that could no longer be ignored, a geriatrician was consulted by the GP, he was taken off the drug (Quetiapine) immediately, and recovered within hours.
In order to even keep him safe, but also to give him the therapy he required to walk again, talk again, use his hands, take care of his own physical needs, read and write again (after a stroke and seizures)  I have had to be there for him 5 to 7 hours a day. Nothing like it was offered by the ‘home’.

 Profits from the helpless

These rest homes are one of the biggest growth industries in the country. They are invested in big-time by people with an eye to the main chance – often organised behind the facade of church organisations who pay no tax. They are making big profits at the expense of us all.
What happened to looking after our old people at home, the way we used to?  No drugs to speak of, just care and love and peace, laughter and companionship – these days, of course, with a bit of outside help supplied by community services such as the excellent Support-Links. Perfect.
It would be interesting to get some statistics about the proportion of Maori, Pacific Islanders and Asian old people who are assigned to these ‘rest homes’. It’s my observation there are very few indeed.

The Filipino example shows us the way

 Significantly, the Filipino nurses and carers (who are absolutely wonderful with the patients at the rest home I’m writing about – kissing and hugging and even singing to them) say that in their own country, it is up to the family and the village to organise the care of their old people. Everyone puts in money and/or resources and young people are assigned special care duties. Works out perfectly. It’s the way we always did things in New Zealand before the advent of ‘drug control’.
Let’s learn from the Filipinos. Give them residency. Keep them with us. They are simply great!
Jacinda and Winston, our entire new Government which is making our country feel like New Zealand again, please take heed of this scandal, investigate it, and change things back to our old ways.