The challenges facing the aged care industry in light of the recent pay equity settlement and struggles to find suitable caregivers were highlighted at a presentation in Napier yesterday.

New Zealand Aged Care Association (NZACA) chief executive Simon Wallace was in the region to talk to the local branch of the association about the issues.

He highlighted the difficulties driven by current immigration policies, and last year's $2 billion pay equity settlement for care and support workers in aged and disability residential care and home and community support services.

Read more: Concerns over Hastings aged care home expansion

Advertisement

Mr Wallace said there were about 27 care facilities or 1400 beds in Hawke's Bay, a number that would need to grow to 36, or an extra 1950 more beds, to meet the local population's needs by 2026.

At the same time, it was projected another 1210 caregivers would be needed between now and 2026.

He said the pay equity settlement, where caregivers' wages had gone up to at least $19 an hour, was putting financial pressure on some rest homes, particularly smaller, more rural ones.

"We have been able to get some transitional funding to help association members, including some in Hawke's Bay, and that will get them through to the end of June and hopefully beyond."

He said despite the increased pay, there had not been a surge in suitable local candidates wanting to work in rest homes.

"It's a difficult job and it takes a very special type of person - they need to have a caring ethos.

"One operator from Hawke's Bay told us they were referred a number of people from WINZ only one of whom was suitable and then they did not turn up to the interview."

He said as such the industry was increasingly reliant on migrant workers, the challenge there being immigration policy changes made in August last year that meant migrant caregiving staff would have to go home after three years.

Five to 10 per cent of workers in Hawke's Bay were on some form of visa, and such policies made it challenging to provide good continuity of care, he said.

Greg Pritchard, the owner and operator of Bryant House, a 33-bed facility in Taradale, attended the presentation and said it had never been easy to find the right people to fill caregiving jobs.

He said about five to 10 per cent of his workers were migrants, and finding suitable caregivers into the future was an ongoing concern.

He noted that while the pay equity settlement had helped increase recognition of the value of caregivers' work, it also had a downside.

"It's affected staff morale and been quite divisive - we also have cleaners, laundry workers, nursing and administrative staff who did not receive a pay increase.

"The risk is those other workers, the registered nurses in particular, will leave us to take up jobs at the DHB, where they are paid better.

"In our industry we need pay equity for registered nurses comparable to DHBs - they do a great job, but this area is a real challenge."