New Zealand’s ageing population has contributed to the increasing nursing staff shortages in aged residential care facilities, which has prompted the Aged Care Commissioner to issue Section 31 notifications.
This has caused distress for family members of those in aged care and has resulted in nurses working longer hours and managers sleeping on site.
In light of this, the Health Minister and the health sector have been looking for ways to tackle the nursing shortages in aged care, such as better pay, pay parity with public hospitals, and increased government funding.
Aged care homes and rest homes in New Zealand are facing a critical staffing shortage, with registered aged care nurses reportedly working up to 16 hours per shift and managers having to sleep on site for several nights a week in order to cover rosters.
This lack of staff means that care workers are overworked and stressed, leading to burnout and a decrease in patient care.
Older people who need care in these facilities may not be able to receive the quality of health services they need due to the shortage of staff.
In order to address the nursing shortage in aged care facilities, the government must take steps to ensure that the sector is attractive to potential workers.
This includes providing competitive wages and benefits, better training and career development opportunities, as well as improved job security.
Section 31 is a tool that the government can use to address the nursing shortage in aged care facilities. This allows the government to employ nurses from overseas on a temporary basis in order to fill vacant positions in aged care facilities, thus alleviating the strain on the existing workforce and ensuring that the needs of the residents are met.
Section 31 notifications
The Ministry of Health has implemented the use of Section 31 notifications to help address the nursing shortage in aged care facilities.
As stated above, this allows the government to employ nurses from overseas on a temporary basis in order to fill vacant positions in aged care facilities and provide the necessary care for residents.
Since the introduction of a new form in April 2021, the number of notifications surged from 260 to 851 by the end of August.
Causes of nursing shortage
Aged care advocates have claimed that the rise in notifications is due to a lack of nurses available.
Nurses are becoming increasingly tired due to the demands of the job and the lack of available staff to cater to demand.
The government must take steps to ensure that the aged care sector is attractive to potential workers. This includes increasing wages and benefits, providing better training and career development opportunities, as well as improved job security.
In order to address the nursing shortage in aged care facilities, the government has introduced Section 31, which has allowed the employ nurses from overseas on a temporary basis.
Additionally, an online urgent care clinic has been established to help alleviate the strain on existing staff, allowing senior caregivers to handle night shifts with virtual, on-call clinical support from GPs and registered nurses.
Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand is also focusing on building the health workforce, through initiatives such as the Return to Nursing Support Fund, a Nurse Practitioner Training Programme and a recruitment campaign encouraging people to take up the profession.
This is helping to ensure that the needs of the residents are met, and that the nursing shortage can be effectively met.