Covid impacting aged-care facilities

More than 20 southern aged residential care facilities are dealing with Covid-19 outbreaks.

"I've been in aged care for 15 years, and I've spoken regularly with people who've been around the industry twice that long," Birchleigh Residential Care Centre chief executive Malcolm Hendry said.

"Everyone is saying it has never been tougher than it is right now."

Mr Hendry, the southern representative on the New Zealand Aged Care Association Board, has been strenuously lobbying the Government for several months about the dire staff shortages in aged residential care, which has thousands of vacancies — especially nursing vacancies — countrywide.

Under section 31 of the Health and Disability Services (Safety) Act, facilities are obliged to notify the director-general of health about any health and safety risk to residents, such as inadequate nursing cover.

Mr Hendry said there were 260 such notifications in 2020, 851 in 2021 and 987 in the first six months of this year.

"But this 987 figure masks the reality of what is happening," he said.

"They were getting so many section 31s that they asked operators to do a weekly summary, so one section 31 may now involve multiple instances of serious risk due to under-resourcing."

Staffing pressures across Otago and Southland appeared to be getting worse, and he had heard from facilities across the region that were struggling to fill rosters for both healthcare assistants and caregivers, and registered nurses.

"This is due to both permanent and temporary (Covid and flu-related) staff losses."