Those in Northland may be likely to struggle when requiring access to aged residential care services in the near future according to a national report released last week.
Aged Care Matters commissioned the report after finding a lack of provision in the Budget for 2023 regarding aged care funding.
The New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) report highlighted how government underfunding of the aged care sector was making it increasingly difficult for older New Zealanders without considerable financial means to access care services.
The report emphasised those in Northland, West Coast, Mid-Central Whanganui and Tairāwhiti, were more likely to feel these struggles. In fact, more than 60 per cent of the population aged above 85 in Northland were categorised as deprived.
Furthermore, Northlander’s growing aging populating are predicted to suffer even greater inequities in the coming decades as New Zealand’s home ownership rates continue to plumet.
Increased costs of aged residential care were also highlighted to be a considerable issue for all New Zealander’s elderly, with access to residential care determined by an individual’s ability to pay.
According to Arjit Balasingham, Kerikeri Retirement Village board chair, there are currently not enough care beds in the Mid and Far North to meet demand, with waitlists now 55 people beyond its capacity.
As well as the $22,500-$30,000 pay disparity between DHB nurses and those in the aged care sector, Balasingham puts these issues down to a lack of funding in the sector, particularly within the “dire” staffing shortages.
“Within our primary catchment of a 20-kilometre radius around Kerikeri, it’s predicted by 2048 there will be demand for 574 beds,” Balasingham said.
“In terms of the number of people over 70 in our primary catchment, it’s currently around 4400, but by 2048 it’s believed to be 8420. Who is going to look after all these people?”
Balasingham explained that despite the plans for three new rest home providers in the primary catchment area, there has been no action taken to start building the facilities; perhaps due to the current aged care sector business model not being feasible, with the last revision being over 20 years ago.
“The government currently pays aged care operators a flat rate for every bed occupied in a care facility,” explains Balasingham.
“But that rate does not cover the costs involved in keeping those beds open, and the shortfall is increasing every year.”
Balasingham explained that Kerikeri Retirement Village had plans to upgrade its facilities by 66 beds, set to cost approximately $15 million – a cost only achievable through independent fundraising and donations.
Balasingham said he felt as if the Government was working against the sector rather than for, in turn putting more pressure on the health sector.
“If our 66 beds closed tomorrow, that’s a 66-bed problem for our local hospital,” he said.
The NZIER report also found a scarcity of dementia beds in Northland compared to the rest of New Zealand.
Representatives from Aged Care Matters plan to engage with government stakeholders to discuss the findings from the NZIER report in the coming weeks.