December 18, 2009

NEW ZEALAND: Rest Homes 'Turning Away' Sick

. CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand / The Press / Society / December 18, 2009 By Rebecca Todd, The Press Sick people are being turned away from rest homes because they will cost too much to care for, a Christchurch rest home manager says. Stephen Shamy, general manager of the Rannerdale Veterans Hospital and Home in Upper Riccarton, said the Government needed to review its funding for aged residential care. The call comes as an Auckland University study shows people in residential aged care are older, frailer and more dependent than 20 years ago. Shamy said a growing number of elderly people were being admitted to residential care with complex needs, but there was no parallel increase in funding to pay for their care. He said his not-for-profit home was receiving an increasing number of requests from elderly people who had been turned away by commercial providers because the cost of caring for them exceeded the funding they attracted. "We are seeing a significant shift in terms of acuity – level of dependency – at the time of admission," he said. "Their needs are more intense. They require more resources in terms of labour and non-labour." Shamy said the funding model meant anybody admitted to hospital after something like a stroke attracted the same funding no matter what their other needs might be. Unlike hospitals, rest homes were not compelled to take patients, and Shamy was concerned the number being turned away would increase. "That's a problem, because who does take them? Those people could become at-risk or be marginalised." He said a review of the funding system was needed. "Successive governments have not had a good funding model around aged care," he said. "The funding model used in secondary care is more fair and equitable, but its cost is prohibitive." The lead researcher for the Auckland study, Dr Michal Boyd, said people were staying well and independent for longer and went into residential care only when they needed a high level of care. Since 1998, the percentage of aged-care residents with a high level of dependency had risen from 36 to 56 per cent. The median age of residents had increased from 83 to 86 and the length of stay decreased from a median of three to 2 1/2 years. Health Minister Tony Ryall said needs in the aged-care sector were being studied, and funding models would be part of the review. [rc] © 2009 Fairfax New Zealand Limited