Last year, the Aged Care Association said New Zealand was short of 500 nursing staff in rest homes. At that point, they were pessimistic and thought New Zealand could be looking at a shortage of close to 1000 nurses.
The concern was that residents were coming into the facilities in worse conditions than they use, and the staffing levels were insufficient.
While pay issues are one part of the equation, a lot of graduating nurses are moving out of the aged care sector to work in DHBs.
One change that is set to alleviate this problem at least in some part is a change of immigration policy that the Government has made.
The Government has added aged care nurses to the Long Term Skill Shortage List, a decision which the New Zealand Aged Care Association applauds.
The decision makes it easier for rest home providers to recruit overseas nurses. By being placed on the Long Term Skill Shortage List (LTSSL), nursing is highlighted as an occupation where there is an ongoing shortage of workers. This comes at a time when the care facilities are struggling to hold their nurse workforce.
“We have lobbied hard for this over the last 18 months with the valued support of DHBs, Health Workforce New Zealand and the Nursing Governance Group among others. The Government has listened to our voice, responded responsibly and we welcome that,” said Simon Wallace, executive chief, New Zealand Aged Care Association.
When people are employed in a LTSSL job they can be granted a work visa under the LTSSL Work to Residence Visa policy, and can apply for residence after two years working in that occupation.
“Our members rely heavily on being able to recruit and retain overseas nurses to be able to provide the highest quality care for our most vulnerable older. But there are simply not enough registered nurses available and at a time when we are now losing nurses to DHBs in the wake of last year’s pay settlement, this decision is a lifeline.”