District Health Boards have agreed to increase funding to aged residential care providers to help mitigate the impact of last year’s DHB nurses’ Multi-Employment Collective Agreement (MECA) on the aged care sector.

The MECA settlement increased the wage gap between nurses employed in DHBs and nurses working in aged residential care. It also required DHBs to recruit an additional 500 nurses, sparking fears that this would lure nurses away from positions in residential aged care.

Since the settlement the New Zealand Aged Care Association (NZACA) has been working with DHBs to firstly acknowledge the impact and secondly fund the sector sufficiently to reinstate wages for nurses in aged residential care to levels that existed prior to the settlement.

As a result of these discussions, DHBs have agreed to make a contribution in the form of a lump sum payment to aged care providers. The contribution will be equivalent to a 0.43% uplift to service level prices for full year 2018/19 at a cost to DHBs of approximately $7.8M. The payment will be calculated and provided in two tranches; the first in March based on actual payment data as of 31 December 2018, and the second in August/September based on payment data as at 30 June 2019.

This additional funding comes with the expectation that it will be used to help mitigate the impact of the settlement.

For 2019/20, price increases agreed for aged residential care as part of the annual Age-Related Residential Care Agreement negotiations will include the 0.43% contribution to ensure the funding is ongoing.

“While we appreciate this is a small contribution, the NZACA will continue its lobby in support of funding that better supports pay for nurses working in aged care,” states NZACA in its member newsletter In Touch.

Nurses’ union NZNO’s David Waite is pleased to see some movement on this issue.

“NZACA has shown great advocacy to get funding outside of the normal cycle,” he says.

“But the reality is that more is needed.”

Waite stressed that aged care staffing levels are currently insufficient, particularly as care needs of older people have increased over time. He says levels need to be reviewed with a mandatory staffing level established.

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