Enliven positive ageing services is warning a crisis is looming in aged care if more is not done to support the recruitment and retention of nurses.
The not-for-profit organisation has been forced to consider temporarily moving some of its Chalmers Home hospital residents due to the chronic nursing shortage in Taranaki and across New Zealand.
“New Zealand needs thousands more nurses,” says Enliven spokesperson Alisha Kennedy. “We understand there are almost 1000 nursing vacancies across the aged care sector.”
Earlier this week Enliven staff at Chalmers Home in New Plymouth broke the news to families that some of their loved ones may need to relocate to other hospital services.
“We’re devastated,” says Alisha. “It’s not the sort of news we wanted to give families at Christmas time, or anytime.”
The situation came about after four Chalmers Home nurses resigned just before Christmas after being offered higher paid DHB positions.
“We don’t blame them, the MECA funding means that the DHBs are able to offer our nurses significantly more money,” says Alisha.
“Our focus is firmly on making sure our residents receiving hospital level care can continue to be safe and well cared for.”
She says Chalmers Home staff and the wider Enliven team are doing all they can to ensure the hospital residents can stay at Chalmers, but resident safety is paramount.
“We’ve had an ongoing nurse recruitment campaign happening nationally and internationally for months. We are offering relocation. We’re constantly looking at how we can be creative with our staffing whilst making sure everyone is safe.
“Now we’re also working with Taranaki DHB to see if they can help us – they’ve been really supportive. We’ve met with other providers to look at partnerships too. But, the fact is everyone is in the same situation. No one can get nurses.”
Enliven wants to see the Government step in to support cross-sector recruitment of overseas nurses to New Zealand.
“The health sector is in crisis. We need thousands more nurses in New Zealand. We need to work together to improve the situation before it’s too late.”
Alisha says funding also needs to be addressed and urgently.
“The DHBs are able to pay nurses at the top end of the MECA scale, which is significantly more than we received funding for so we just can’t compete. We feel helpless.
“Funding needs to flow through to community organisations and not-for-profits so that our nurses have pay parity with those working for the DHB. After all, they work just as hard.”
Enliven is part of the not-for-profit organisation Presbyterian Support Central. It offers a range of positive ageing services across the lower North Island including eight retirement villages and 14 care homes. Chalmers Home in New Plymouth provides rest home and hospital level care services. Rest home care is not affected by the current situation.