Nurse boost lessens MP’s aged care woes

An artist’s impression of MetlifeCare’s retirement offering for Three Parks, Wānaka. Construction...
An artist’s impression of MetlifeCare’s retirement offering for Three Parks, Wānaka. Construction is planned to begin later this year, with the opening anticipated in 2026. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
The Queenstown Lakes District’s over-65 population has grown 38.2% in the last five years, adding weight to reported concerns about pressure on Wānaka’s residential aged care facilities.

Census 2023 reports 5691 people aged over 65 living in the district, up from 4119 in 2018 and 3033 in 2013.

A Community Links Wānaka/Reconnecting Seniors report in September 2023 found housing and access to health services were key concerns for 268 Upper Clutha locals.

A recent report by consultants Sapere Research for Health New Zealand found the aged care sector could be short of 12,000 beds by 2032. 

The Wānaka Sun has previously reported private aged-care developers MetlifeCare and Winton are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on new, similar sized retirement facilities in Wānaka.

Both companies are focusing their marketing on nearly 100 luxury, independent villas or houses and include up to 30 premium aged care, dementia and respite suites.

However, the Presbyterian Support Otago charity (PSO) announced in April that it would be selling Elmslie Rest Home and Hospital and the Wānaka Retirement Village in Meadowstone.

PSO would also be exiting the aged-care nursing services it provides under a joint venture agreement with Aspiring Enliven on Cardrona Valley Road.

PSO cited costs, workforce recruitment and retention issues, and staff not being able to find affordable accommodation in Wanaka as concerns. It said it would keep the rest of its Otago aged care portfolio. 

The Wānaka Sun asked Minister of Health Dr Shane Reti during his visit to Wānaka last week what his plans were for boosting the aged care sector. 

He said his concerns had lessened this year, after learning about the arrival of many internationally qualified nurses into New Zealand.

"Aged care is an interesting situation at the moment with some of the largest numbers of internationally qualified nurses we have ever had.

"In this past year to 31 March we have registered 15,000 people compared to 8000 previously. That’s an 81%  increase in registered nurses.

"A large number of them are internationally qualified nurses and a large number of them are going into aged residential care.

"So if you had asked me a year or 18 months ago, I would have said one of my major concerns for aged residential care is workforce. I am still concerned but it is much less than what it was, and I think the aged care residential sector can look forward to it being better."

Dr Reti said workforce issues remained, including pay parity. 

Dr Reti said he and associate health minister Matt Doocey were committed to "timely, accessed and quality rural health care".