McKelvie on Health

Ruapehu Bulletin, King Country Ohakune 22 June 2022

Local Member of Parliament Ian McKelvie writes about New Zealand 's health services: Meeting the healthcare needs of New Zealand's aging population is one of the significant challenges facing our healthcare system and as National's spokesperson for Seniors, it's one close to my heart.

The industry is currently in crisis compounded by an aging population, acute staff shortages and the significant impact of our closed borders.

It is a national problem that is being felt here in the Rangitikei Electorate (that includes Ruapehu) too.

The closure of Te Arahina O Arihia Rest Home in Taumarunui leaves the town's Avonlea Rest Home and Hospital as the only remaining facility in the Ruapehu District. And they're struggling too. Like so many facilities throughout New Zealand, it's hard to get staff and almost impossible to retain them especially considering the DHB's are funded to pay their nurses around $10 an hour more than rest homes.

It's difficult to justify the differential in pay when the nurses have the same qualifications and training and in many cases very similar roles and responsibilities. No surprises then that the turnover of registered nurses in rest homes went from an already high 33% in 2019 to a staggering 48% by the end of 2021.

On top of all this, in 2019, 39% of rest home nurses were from overseas and employed on a long term skills shortage / work to residence visa. By 2021 that number was just 14% and heading south.

Our rest homes need surety including opening up the borders to overseas staff and a guarantee of equal pay rates to prevent the incredibly high attrition rates of this precious workforce.

Meanwhile, Rangitikei local Nicky Pearce has taken it upon herself to fill a gap. It was great to meet with Nicky and talk about her new initiative Home Sweet Home Care (www.homesweethomecare., which she launched last year. It's a care service which allows people to stay in their own home and receive support while at the same time retaining an independent and fulfilling quality of life. Like everyone I come across who works in the aged care sector, Nicky is passionate about helping elderly New Zealanders live their best life in comfort and safety with great care.

It's time for this Government to step up before it's too late especially for the sake of senior New Zealanders living in rural and provincial New Zealand.

Ian McKelvie, MP.