Aged-care facilities are being run like factories and chronic staffing shortages could lead to early resident deaths, the Nurses Organisation warns.

Nurses working in aged-care across Tauranga will meet today to discuss staffing shortages, staff not being replaced, residents missing out on care and exhausted and worn out aged-care workers.

It's a factory, basically. Go in, hose them down and chuck them back in their beds.

But the New Zealand Aged Care Association has refuted the union's claims, saying there is no evidence to support them.

Angela Neil, of the New Zealand Nurses Organisation, which represents about 400 aged-care workers in the Bay of Plenty, said nurses felt they could no longer provide the care needed.


"It's a factory, basically. Go in, hose them down and chuck them back in their beds," she told the Bay of Plenty Times.

"These people are paid crap money, they work like dogs. The nurses have all had their hours cut."

Nurses often told her they had to start putting residents to bed at 6pm and some were not taken out of bed until 11am the next day because nurses were so busy.

"Often people's teeth haven't been cleaned and there's all food stuck under them and it's gone all green and yuck."

There were recommendations for how many hours of staff time each resident should get but the funding did not stretch far enough to meet them, she said.

"A lot of them [residents] need hoists, a lot of them need two people to manage even just toileting them ... They get one."

The staffing shortages were compromising the care which could ultimately result in early deaths, she said.

She predicted that after today's meeting the nurses would be calling on the Government to make changes.


Alistair Duncan, of the Service and Food Workers Union, which represents about 3400 caregivers nationwide, said short staffing in aged-care facilities was a "time bomb waiting to explode on some of the most vulnerable people in New Zealand".

Grey Power Tauranga president Christina Humphreys said short staffing was wide spread and could lead to serious injuries and deaths.

Often people's teeth haven't been cleaned and there's all food stuck under them and it's gone all green and yuck.

She was concerned the care would continue to get worse with Tauranga's ageing population.

"I'm 100 per cent behind what the nurses are saying ... In care units the care just isn't good enough."

But New Zealand Aged Care Association (NZACA) chief executive Martin Taylor rejected the claims.

Mr Taylor said the Government had tried setting staffing ratios before and found they had not delivered better care results due to inflexibility.

The audit responses they had received did not suggest any problems, he said.

"The whole view that there is some wild problem out there according to NZNO is completely unfounded in any evidence based argument.

"They say their caregivers are exhausted - yeah, caregiving is hard."

He said every health professional would ideally want more time with patients but they had enough to deliver the care needed.

"It is an ideological position, not a practical one."

They would need independent and robust research and evidence if they were to challenge the current staff numbers, he said.

But he agreed wages were too low and the association had been championing a campaign for higher wages since 2005.

Inquiry backed pay parity

A Human Rights Commission inquiry into aged care in 2012, Caring Counts, recommended the "Minister of Health directs District Health Boards (DHBs) to develop a mechanism to achieve pay parity between health care assistants working in DHBs and carers working in home support and residential facilities".

Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Dr Judy McGregor said of the report, "the sense of crisis that surrounds aged care is partly a reflection of our collective knowledge that we are not being fair and that a large group of workers is being discriminated against".

In 2014/15, district health boards will spend about $1.6 billion on aged care, or 11 per cent of the $15.6 billion allocated to health.

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