Aged care nurses added to shortage list

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by Greta Yeoman

The addition of aged care nurses to the Government’s long-term skill shortage list has prompted a positive response from South Canterbury’s aged care sector.

Adding the role to the skills shortage list provides more options for employers to recruit staff from overseas, on a range of visas.

Presbyterian Support South Canterbury chief executive Carolyn Cooper said the change would be “great” for the sector.

“It’s definitely needed,” she said.

The social agency – which manages The Croft, Margaret Wilson and Wallingford homes – was at present fully-staffed for registered nurses, but Mrs Cooper said additional staffing options would benefit the whole sector.

While many people have attributed staffing issues to an agreement between the Ministry of Health and district health board-employed nurses last year, it had been a concern before then, she said.

“[But] it definitely didn’t help.”

The August 2018 agreement between the Ministry of Health and the New Zealand Nurses Organisation prompted many registered nurses working in aged care to move to district health board facilities.

Any improvement in [employing] registered nurses is very, very welcome.

While the agreement had massively improved staff pay rates – by between 12.5% and 16% – for nurses employed by health boards across the country, the ministry had offered only a 2% increase for registered nurses working in aged care.

Strathallan retirement and care village manager Debbie McMaster said while staffing levels at the Konini St facility were “good”, increasing staffing anywhere in the country would benefit the entire sector.

“Any improvement in [employing] registered nurses is very, very welcome.”

“It can only be a beneficial to nursing everywhere.”

The Courier has previously reported on staffing issues in rest-homes around the region, particularly Radius Elloughton Gardens in Timaru.

While not all the issues reported by The Courier about Elloughton Gardens were to do with staffing levels, Radius Care chief executive Jane Smart had attributed a lot of its staffing issues to the DHB agreement.

New Zealand Aged Care Association chief executive Simon Wallace had echoed her comments, saying it had caused a “torrent” of nurses to leave the aged-care sector for DHB jobs.

In a statement released last week, he said the association was pleased by the decision.

He said he considered the move a “lifeline” for staffing aged care facilities.

“The Government has listened to our voice, responded responsibly and we welcome that,” he said.