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Greens and Labour join for aged care investigation

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Sue Kedgley
Sue Kedgley

Wellington, April 7 NZPA - Labour and the Greens are to assist Grey Power in running a nation-wide investigation to "shine the spotlight" on the state of aged care in New Zealand.

Announced today by Labour and Green Party aged care spokeswomen Winnie Laban and Sue Kedgley, the investigation aims to gather information about the level of care provided to elderly both in rest homes and in their own homes.

It follows concerns sparked by recent damning reports from the Health and Disability Commissioner involving rest homes, and cuts by some district health boards to spending on domestic assistance for pensioners.

Ms Laban said the investigation follows an approach from Grey Power and will involve "grass-roots" meetings with interested parties around the country.

She said the quality of aged care in New Zealand was declining at a time when the elderly population was growing fast, and her attempts to get the issue addressed in Parliament had been stifled.

Ms Kedgley said she hoped tackling the aged care issue in a manner that would set a precedent for how MPs investigated problems.

"Up until now we have sat in select committees and expected people to come to us with issues and problems, but what we are doing now is going out and talking to the elderly in their homes and their communities..."

Rest home audits had shown there were serious problems, but the lack of transparency about how they were run meant it was often difficult to know their internal workings and how huge amounts of taxpayer money was being utilised, she said.

Some of the problems came down to chronic understaffing, low wages and a lack of training for carers, she said.

Meanwhile, cuts to spending on house visits by carers to elderly people living at home meant there would be more pressure on those residents to look after themselves and carry out their own household duties, leading to social neglect and more accidents and hospital admissions as a result, Ms Kedgley said.

Such problems needed to be addressed rather than left to compound, she said.

Ms Laban said the elderly were a non-complaining but "hugely-stressed" group whose vulnerability was being exposed.

Grey Power president Les Howard said the most pressing concern at the moment was funding cuts to home assistance, signalled recently by health boards in the Otago and Southland districts.

He said an intention to keep people out of expensive rest homes and in their own homes for longer was fine if they had support, but if they were neglected the cost-saving goal would be negated in the long run through increased hospital admissions.

Replacing home visits with telephone checks was an ineffective way of monitoring someone's welfare, he said.

The investigation is due to begin in the next fortnight, with a report expected about July or August. That would be peer reviewed by experts and a second report was expected in about September.

Ms Kedgley said the report, which would shine the spotlight on the problems faced by the elderly, would be presented to the Government.

"And I would suggest they would ignore our recommendations at their peril."

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