The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) is challenging proposed staffing changes at two facilities run by Presbyterian Support Southland (PSS), saying they will reduce standards of patient care and put extra strain on nursing and care staff, and that they are being justified on out-of-date guidelines.
NZNO Organiser Simone Montgomery said that across its hospital services and two rest homes (Vickery Court in Invercargill and Rest Haven in Gore), the PSS proposals would cut net staff care by around 157 hours per week - and, she said, this comes after net care hours were cut by 114 per week last year.
"The staff reductions are being justified by the claim that PSS services are currently over-staffed according to the 2005 Aged Care Staffing Guidelines, but we have been saying for some time that these standards are hopelessly out-of-date and do not account for the increased number of people in aged care, or for their increasingly complex needs.
"The clear message in all of this to current staff, who are already overstretched, is that somehow they aren’t working well or hard enough, and that’s ridiculous."
In March this year NZNO and E tū released their joint report: In safe hands? How poor staffing levels and rationed care are harming aged care residents and staff. The research surveyed 1194 people working in aged care facilities and found that three quarters (73.45 percent) of those surveyed either disagreed or strongly disagreed that staffing levels were sufficient to provide quality care for residents.
The report called for a review of the existing standards and that new resulting standards be made compulsory. The 2005 standards currently in place are voluntary.
The rationale for the staffing reductions is that DHB funding for aged care does not cover staff that would be considered ‘extra’ when staffing levels are compared to the 2005 Guidelines, but Ms Montgomery said the proper solution should be to seek increased funding and not reduce standards of care to save money.
"We think New Zealanders care very much about the health, wellbeing and dignity of our seniors and would agree that the way we care for them reflects back on all of us," she said.