New Zealand Aged Care Association (NZACA) Chief Executive Simon Wallace says the decision, announced yesterday by Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway, will allow rest home providers to more efficiently recruit overseas nurses at a time when they are struggling to retain their valuable nurse workforce.

“Now rest home operators can employ overseas trained nurses without having to prove they can’t find a New Zealander for the position, which has previously taken its toll in terms of time and cost. And it means the overseas nurses have an easier pathway to employment and residency. They can be granted a work visa under the LTSSL Work to Residence Visa policy and may apply for residence after two years working in a LTSSL occupation under specific criteria.”

Wallace says residential care homes have been hemorrhaging aged care nurses as they go to the public health system where post the pay equity settlement they can be paid four or five dollars more per hour.

“It has become such an issue for recruiting and retaining our aged care nurses.”

New Zealand is looking at the number of over 85s tripling in the next 20 years.

“Currently we have 80,000 over 85s by 2038 that number will have nearly tripled top 215,000 and while not all of those people will be in residential care many will and we don’t have enough nurses.”

Wallace agrees that the aged care nursing sector is sometimes treated as an “add-on” to the health sector.

“We provide 39,000 beds. If that number of people had to go into hospitals they would be overflowing. Pay parity is needed to demonstrate our commitment to care for the elderly.”

NZNO industry adviser for aged Care spokesperson David Wait agrees that there is a desperate need to stabilise the Kiwi-trained aged care nursing workforce.

“New Zealand has the highest proportion of internationally qualified nurses in the OECD. We are really grateful for our overseas nurses.

“We would like to see the voluntary guidelines on staffing in the sector updated as they were written in 2005 as the best research in the sector shows we need higher staffing levels. Currently we have 30 to 33 per cent turnover on staff in which affects the cost and consistency of care. Those nurses who stay are constantly training new recruits. And the ongoing recruitment costs are huge.”

Wait says the NZNO supports a proposed immigration policy which would see a negotiation of sector agreements including for aged care.

“This would put ward pressure on wages and conditions within the sector reduce turnover and increased the requirement to develop more locally trained nurses and in the process create a nursing workforce for the future.”

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