Grey Power wants aged-care watchdog

Health Minister David Clark
Health Minister David Clark

New Zealand must follow Australia's lead and set up a new aged-care watchdog to protect the vulnerable elderly, Grey Power says.

Legislation introduced in Canberra will establish a new independent Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission to crack down on widespread failures in rest-home care.

In New Zealand, both Labour and the Green Party went into the election with policy to set up a similar watchdog.

A week before the election, Dunedin North MP David Clark, and now Minister of Health, had said the new aged-care commissioner would be provided for in a Labour-led Government's first Budget.

However, that did not happen, surprising and disappointing Grey Power, which worked with both parties before the election to detail significant problems in the sector.

National president Mac Welch said it was a major priority, given the sometimes horrifying cases of substandard care and abuse.

"The commissioner must have legal powers, and powers of enforcement.

"The Australians have obviously recognised that their system is weak in that area, and they are creating such an office. And funding it rather generously.''

In June, a Grey Power delegation went to Parliament, but could not get an appointment with Dr Clark.

They did meet New Zealand First leader and Deputy PM Winston Peters, who told them Labour and Green Party policy was not coalition government policy.

"I said to him, `Well, hang on, do you support the creation of the office of the aged-care commissioner?' And he said, yes, they would,'' Mr Welch said.

Mr Peters said last night NZ First did not have a policy about an aged-care commissioner, but he was happy to put it on the caucus agenda for discussion.

Consumer and health advocates are pressing the Government to make voluntary aged-care standards mandatory.

A New Zealand Herald investigation this year found a third of the country's 651 aged-care facilities had recent resident care shortcomings.

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