Deaths should prompt change

Eight adverse reports relating to rest home care in as many months, resulting in several deaths, cannot go unchallenged, Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King says.

In the latest report this week, concerns were raised by a coroner over the death of an elderly woman who died of a heart attack after a fall.

“That follows another coroner’s report that found an Otaki woman died from being given the wrong medication by a caregiver, an apology from a Nelson retirement village to the family of a 95-year-old after it was found inadequate care led to her death and a Waikato retirement home’s care compared to a concentration camp.

“Just last month five elderly women died following an outbreak of strep A at a Christchurch rest home.

“These events should give us all pause to think about how we are caring for our older people.

“Given an aging population means increasing numbers of our parents and grandparents will be living in rest homes it is vital they are provided with the best quality care and the safest possible environments.

“Many of the facilities are functioning with too few staff, many of whom have no training or qualifications, are on low rates of pay and are working long hours to cover shortages. At the same time the needs of residents are higher. That is a recipe for disaster.

“According to the Aged Care Association older people in New Zealand are more likely to end up in retirement facilities than in any other country, yet for too long the sector has been under-valued and funded.

“Reports and reviews over the years have led to some new initiatives being implemented, but maintaining a level of care we would all want for one of our own family requires more than a continued reliance on the goodwill of staff – it requires action.

“Caring for our elderly is as important as caring for our young. There can be no more calls for improvement. We need to make improvements now.

“That means establishing an Aged Care Commissioner to investigate claims of neglect and elder abuse, and developing a comprehensive aged care strategy that values those who work in the sector, something Labour has been working on in conjunction with the industry.”