Wendy Huston’s Column

Wendy HustonGovt. must pay more for aged-care workers — Kapiti Retirement Trust Head

By Wendy Huston
CEO Kapiti Retirement Trust

 With the date for the national election confirmed as September 20, the priorities of politicians and would be politicians will come to the fore. 

All sectors naturally believe their cause is the best and should be priority Number One priority, the plight of aged care should concern us all. 

While they may not hit buttons in terms of cuteness or public appeal, the statistics showing how many of us will make up the 65-plus age group over the next three decades are known to us all. 

Our aging future
This is our future — the reward for living a long and worthwhile life. But it begs the question: Who will be there to look after us?

I am the first to say that carers in aged-care facilities are not paid enough. 

If we talk about Government-funded care, then the starting point has to be pay parity.  This has happened in the education sector and health needs to follow suit. 

Why is it that carers who work in our public hospitals are funded at one rate, while those doing exactly the same work in care facilities funded by the DHB’s but run by private groups, are paid significantly less?  It makes no sense.    

‘Happy to pass on to staff any additional funding’

As CEO of the Kapiti Retirement Trust, I would be more than happy to commit to passing on to staff any additional funding which was tagged for staffing.

As a community, we need to be grateful that private enterprise, both profit and not-for-profit, have funded the building and upgrading of most aged-care facilities. 

Where would we be if we had relied on central government funding for the needed bricks and mortar?

I believe the Kapiti Retirement Trust runs an efficient aged-care facility, with great resources to keep residents well cared for and staff safe while at work. 

Such work often involves heavy lifting and dealing with tasks which are less than pleasant. 

If we can’t make it work financially, what hope do smaller organisations have?

0.89% funding rise last year!

Did you know that our funder, Capital & Coast DHB, passed on from Government funding just a 0.89% increase last year for continuing aged care (that is hospital level care). 

This year, the expected increase due in July is just 1%.  How can we expect to attract and keep quality health care assistants – the people we will need to care for us with such a rate? 

If these are matters which concern you, now is the time to challenge the politicians. 

We need to make the funding of aged care a major election issue.  That will only happen if the voice of the usual ‘silent majority’ is heard.

Great story Wendy.
Having been involved with unions not only from the outside but from the inside as well I have seen their efforts and heard many stories about caregivers trying to gain decent rates of pay over the years but to no avail. The majority of caregivers (as you will be aware of) are people that have to deal with a wide range of job activities in their workplace such as, providing meals, attending to all elderly needs, and cleaning, not to mention working split shift-work and rotating shifts each receiving pretty much the same remuneration. In more recent times the introduction of more responsibilities such as giving out and administering medication to individuals when this practice was undertaken by registered nurses.
Funding to lift caregivers wages as you have pointed out already, must increase from Central Government to enable caregivers to receive a wage that, recognizes their work, and also be a living wage as well, however funding must come from the private organizations as well, the caregivers employers such as, Oceania Group, Metlife, Sommerset, Ryeman’s, Seven Oaks to name a few. Some of these companies make obscene profits and forget very quickly who made these profits for them. I am of the belief that some of these companies could easily afford right now to pay a better rate of pay but choose not to and would rather conveniently align themselves with each other to try and keep wages low.
Of course my other gripe is with management and some of the exorbitant rates of pay that some managers and CEO’S receive, but that’s another story for another day.