David Shearer’s Column

a david shearer picCrisis hits care of the elderly

By the Rt Hon David Shearer
Leader of the Labour Party

Three years ago a review by Labour and the Greens of the aged care sector – a key sector of concern on the Kapiti Coast —  found care of our elderly pretty much at crisis point.

That was 2010. Last year the then Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Dr Judy McGregor went undercover for a week in a rest home.

Three years ago a review by Labour and the Greens of the aged care sector – a key sector of concern on the Kapiti Coast —  found care of our elderly pretty much at crisis point.

‘Offends against human decency’

That was 2010. Last year the then Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Dr Judy McGregor went undercover for a week in a rest home.

 ‘Caring Counts’, her follow-up report, which gathered evidence from some 900 participants over a 12 month period, described the sector as a ‘type of modern-day

slavery’ which  ‘offends against human decency.’

She was told, repeatedly, that the value Kiwis place on older people can be linked to the value we place on those who care for them.

Her recommendations included better training, pay parity (so staff at rest homes are paid the same as their equivalent working in public health) and a five-star rating system a five-star quality assurance system comparing residential facilities.

That was 12 months ago. Just this week Consumer released yet another report on aged care.

Mismanagement highlighted

It highlights cases of medication mismanagement, staff shortages, and  residents being fed tinned baked beans or spaghetti for evening meals night after night.  

And it highlights failure to meet criteria in some core standards — residents’ needs assessments and ensuring appropriate care, the basic functions of a rest home.

It found less than 10 per cent of rest homes fully comply with the required standards.

We still have some facilities failing to act on complaints or failing to remedy shortfalls picked up by audits.

That’s not good enough. We don’t stand for it when an animal is neglected.

We need to be just as loud and noisy when it comes to our older folk.

The Government knows this is no longer a ‘looming crisis,’ but one that is here and now, yet its response has been to ignore it. Ignoring it won’t make it go away.

It knows that tens of thousands more Kiwis – our mums and dads, our grandparents – will need looking after in the future. They should have the best possible care, provided by skilled and valued staff.

Scrutiny needed

Rest homes care for some of our most vulnerable people. That means scrutiny of the industry should be in line with what we expect of other sector providers – such as schools.

Parents want, and deserve to know, what the schools they send their kids to are like – whether they will meet their children’s needs, look after and nurture them, teach them well.

They can know that, thanks to comprehensive Education Review Office reports that are made publicly available. The purpose of ERO’s reviews is to give parents and the wider school community assurance about the quality of education that schools provide and their children receive.

There is no reason aged care facilities should not come under similar scrutiny, with the Ministry of Health publishing comprehensive information about each of them. 

That would give Kiwi families the confidence in knowing their loved ones were in the best possible hands.

So, come on, let’s make some noise.