A Rotorua registered nurse working in aged care has spoken out about the "upsetting" state of the sector, following the release of a damning report looking at the sector.

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation and E tū's report, In Safe Hands, stated elderly living in rest homes were getting about six minutes of care an hour and warned some residents were dying as a result.

New Zealand Nurses Organisation union members in the Bay of Plenty rally for better pay and working conditions, in April 2018. Photo / File
New Zealand Nurses Organisation union members in the Bay of Plenty rally for better pay and working conditions, in April 2018. Photo / File

The research surveyed 1194 respondents across the country, including more than 600 registered nurses, nearly 60 enrolled nurses, more than 450 caregivers and nearly 20 facility and clinical managers.

It reported patients had been trying to ration their own care to help overworked staff and many staff believed they could not offer safe, quality care to residents because there were not enough people rostered on.

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A Rotorua woman, who spoke to the Rotorua Daily Post on the condition her identity and workplace remained anonymous, has been a registered nurse for almost six years.

She said the nurses' experiences in the report were relatable and happening in Rotorua.

"It's really hard. I have had to take stress leave from work and knowing that's how the rest of the staff feel too makes me angry and really sad ... I feel at risk of losing my practising certificate.

"I have thought about leaving many times but the problems will still be there. My co-workers are still stressed and not coping so I find it hard to."

However, New Zealand Aged Care Association chief executive Simon Wallace told the Rotorua Daily Post the report did not give an accurate depiction of the sector.

Simon Wallace, chief executive of the New Zealand Aged Care Association. Photo / File
Simon Wallace, chief executive of the New Zealand Aged Care Association. Photo / File

He also said higher staff ratios were not the answer to improving aged care.

"I would describe that as a blunt tool. What is important is having staff that are skilled and experienced, and have the aptitude for the work environment."

He said one of the biggest issues was the loss of 500 to 600 registered nurses who went to DHBs in the last six months, after their pay deal with the Government last August.

New Zealand Nurses Organisation union members rallying in April 2018 to highlight concerns about safe staffing, pay and working conditions. Photo / File
New Zealand Nurses Organisation union members rallying in April 2018 to highlight concerns about safe staffing, pay and working conditions. Photo / File

However, the Rotorua nurse disagreed.

"The reason a lot of our nurses went is not because of money. It is because they are both physically and mentally stressed ... There needs to be more staff."

She said a lot of her colleagues had been on stress leave.

"We are feeling defeated."

The nurse said one of the most upsetting problems was "a lot of residents of sound mind have said they don't like to bother us as they see how tired and exhausted we are".

"It doesn't matter how much we try to encourage them to ask for help. They say they don't like to be a pain, and that really upsets me ... We grow a bond with them and it affects us.

"It makes me feel like we are their [the residents'] last voice and advocate, and we feel helpless because our words are just not getting across. If it was my family member, I don't know what I would do."

David Wait, industrial adviser, aged care at the New Zealand Nurses Organisation. Photo / File
David Wait, industrial adviser, aged care at the New Zealand Nurses Organisation. Photo / File

The Nurses Organisation's industrial adviser for aged care, David Wait, said care needs in New Zealand had increased slowly, but steadily, over time.

"We have forgotten the standard of care we used to give. We are long past the worries about loneliness. It's now people missing showers and baths."