21 Oct 2008

Aged care sector says it needs more than Labour's $13m top up

11:27 am on 21 October 2008

An aged care lobby group says Labour has not addressed concerns over pay parity between public and private elderly care nurses.

Health Care Providers New Zealand says the stability of the sector is being undermined by the 20% wage gap.

Following National's pledge it would spend an extra $23 million to increase respite beds and pay for nurses if it becomes the Government, Labour has invested $13 million to train carers and top-up budgets.

Health Care Providers chief executive Martin Taylor says it is difficult to retain resthome nurses because they can make much more money in public hospitals.

"There is no acceptance that pay parity is needed. That really is one of the biggest problems with the workforce at the moment. We can't develop the aged care workforce unless we have a commitment by the Government that they need to fund private sector wages to the same level that they fund public health services."

Labour's health spokesperson David Cunliffe says its cash injection should flow through into pay packets and help staff retention.

National says it has ear-marked $18 million a year of its $23 million package to help resthomes support and retain staff, which would improve the quality of supervision and nursing in rest homes.

Its aged care spokesperson Jo Goodhew says at the moment registered nurses working in residential care facilities are paid less per hour than those working for District Health Boards, with the pay gap increasing.

National is also promising increased access to respite care, with its health spokesperson Tony Ryall saying it will expand access to dedicated palliative care respite beds by $5 million a year, from already allocated spending.