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Reminder of elder care vulnerability

Opinion Piece
Nona Aston

The sudden decision of HealthCare NZ to propose a restructure of their organisation is another reminder of the vulnerability of our elderly care industry in New Zealand. Caught in that vulnerability of the need for “efficiencies” are not only the elderly who need care but also the staff, managers, carers and co-ordinators of the organisations.These mainly women are often the mainstay of their families and rely on the sustainability of their jobs to give their families a future.

In the article in The Gisborne Herald yesterday, the chief executive of HealthCare NZ stated “For years contractual funding from funding agencies has seen very limited increases.Many contracts are now very tight.Efficiency improvements are essential if we are to remain truly sustainable.”

The national secretary of the PSA union stated in an NZ Herald article recently that, “The funding model for home support care has been broken and we need the Ministry of Health and other funders to take responsibility for ongoing problems in the sector.”

For some time now there have been steady cuts in hours and staffing of the elderly care industry, where people are in a time of life that needs quality care and time with staff who are supported through their often difficult days.

Efficiencies may be seen as the answer to ease financial problems but will they be the answer to a better quality of care?

As stated in The Gisborne Herald, “The proposed new structure, including the creation of a national service centre, and better technological systems and processes, will help us deliver better customer-directed care and pursue growth opportunities arising from anticipated social and demographic change.” Will that new national service centre be an 0800 number?

Once again it seems to me we elderly have become the target for “efficiencies”, and not only a target but an easy target.

I looked up the word efficient and found “elegant, skilled, adept, expert, economic, productive”.

Does this mean we elderly will become all these things?

I can't wait to be elegant and hopefully I have been some of the other words some time in my past life, but I fear the only word for us will be “economic” as in economic for the industry.

I then looked up the word care: “serve, trust, attend, concern, safekeeping, guardianship, consideration”.

Beautiful words full of promise and hope for the end years of lives, lived in a world of upheaval and change, to be cared for and above all have peace and stability.

Let us hope the better technological systems give us the peace and stability so hoped for as we live out our last years.

I would like to thank all of you who work with the elderly and hope that through all this change you too find peace and stability.

To the funders of contracts for elderly care, I pray for kind hearts, charitable thoughts and most of all an earnest desire to make the elderly care industry a true guardian of the vulnerable older people in our communities.

  1. Natalie, Tauranga says:

    I am a caregiver and am very upset with this decision. I can’t see it working and it definitely takes away the personal side of things. Our co-ordinators who do the rosters know our clients and their needs and requirements. They are the first people who get rung if we have concerns, families have concerns or clients themselves have concerns. They are rung if clients aren’t home when we get there, and follow through to find out if they are OK. If we are sick, they cover our clients. And this is only part of their jobs. The clients, families and workers rely on them. I have big concerns about this decision.