The high cost of living and shortage of registered nurses in New Zealand is reaching a crisis point that could see the Raglan Rest Home and Hospital close down if it can’t meet Waikato DHB contractual obligations.
Owner/manager Maree Lawrence, a registered nurse, is often working 24/7 and sleeping in a campervan at the rest home in order to cover the night shift.
She says the situation in Raglan is echoed throughout the country but aged care facilities in smaller towns are more at risk.
“Accommodation in smaller areas is harder to find and we’re unique in Raglan because it’s really expensive out here.”
The scale the Ministry of Health uses to fund aged care allocates more money to urban facilities and Maree believes it hasn’t kept pace with the rising costs of living in a place like Raglan.
“Historically, they looked at the average residential house price, and the rates, and then they created a funding scale, that has not been reviewed in light of current valuations
Maree has been campaigning for some time to get the MOH to update aged care funding but says the changes needed to come from central government.
Speaking to Stuff recently, New Zealand Aged Care Association chief executive Simon Wallace said the sector was short of more than 1000 registered nurses and it was the result of aged care receiving little attention from the central government for too long.
With a lack of nurses everywhere, the advice from the DHB is to reach out to the community.
“The DHB has been supportive but their hands are tied as they are short of nurses as well. It was their suggestion, on behalf of the ministry, to see if there are retired nurses who would come back to nursing or nurses that are working part time to come and help.”
Having spent months sleeping in the campervan to ensure patient safety, and the likelihood of many more months sleeping on site, Maree is grateful for someone to even cover a shift here and there.
Like many facilities, Maree advertises for staff nationally and internationally but is then faced with the lack of affordable accommodation available in Raglan.
“Currently we have five registered nurses interested in coming to New Zealand and to take long-term positions who would need accommodation. Some come on their own and would need a room, and we have a couple of families who would need an apartment or house,” she says.
Once the nurses are in the country, they are required to undertake New Zealand competency training, which takes time and comes at a cost. Maree needs to find the $11,550 it takes to get each nurse able to practice in New Zealand.
“Most of them come here because they haven’t got money. And trying to raise that money, either to support them, or to somehow put them through is another huge challenge. So even if I can get them in from overseas, I’ve then got to find a way to pay for their training.”
But she’s not about to give up on the Raglan Rest Home and Hospital; Maree believes in putting people over profit.
Not just an aged care facility, they also care for people with chronic illness, and provide respite and palliative care for all ages. She is known for taking people in who wouldn’t be able to afford other facilities or wouldn’t meet their criteria.
“Raglan is one of the only facilities who don’t have a system of charges for extras, such as fresh fruit, happy hour, or a room with a view, which makes it more affordable for residents.”
“There are investors around who talk about changing this place into something else but I don’t want to do that yet. What’s Raglan going to do if we lose this?”
Maree knows there’s no quick fix to the nursing shortage but hopes there may be people in the community who can help with nursing shifts, affordable accommodation, sponsorship for competency training – she’s open to any suggestions.
To offer your support contact Maree Lawrence at 021 619 960 or firstname.lastname@example.org.