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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Choice gone for Chch old folk

Choice gone for Chch old folk

Last updated 05:00 25/04/2011
The loss of 600 rest-home beds means the elderly in Christchurch will have "no choice" over where they grow old, aged care providers say.

Nine Christchurch rest homes were either wholly or partly evacuated because of earthquake damage, leaving the region with 600 fewer beds.

New Zealand Aged Care Association chief executive Martin Taylor said Christchurch providers were still in negotiations with the Canterbury District Health Board regarding how rest-home beds which became available would be allocated.

The association was urging its members to agree to a single point of entry system whereby the health board would have control over who went where.

Taylor said this would cut administration costs for the homes and ease pressure from families phoning every day in search for free bed space.

"They (providers) hear a lot of needy stories every day and they just can't assist with most of them because they don't have capacity," said Taylor.

The new agreement meant older people needing residential care would have no choice of where they would live.

"The choice they previously enjoyed in terms of where they wanted to age has all gone," he said.

The lack of capacity meant people from one side of town may be forced to go into rest-home care on the other side, away from family and friends.

Taylor said Canterbury enjoyed a very high level of aged care because of competition in the market.

"If you take away that driver then the renewal and growth which made Canterbury's aged-care sector so robust will be affected," he said.

The new arrangement was expected to be in place for a year.

Taylor said the earthquake had now given the Canterbury board an opportunity to look at new ways of doing things such as purpose-built respite facilities and dementia daycare and nightcare facilities.

"Christchurch is a test case for the future," said Taylor.

The focus would have to switch towards more dementia beds, but if these were built too quickly the beds might not fill up and homes could be forced to close. He said a new facility traditionally took three years to build from the day of the decision to do it.

Taylor said the availability of respite care had become a huge issue as the squeeze went on bed numbers in the city.

"The Aged Residential Care Review last year said that this was going to happen around 2014, so what we have got is a window on the future.

"The solutions we find in Canterbury will be instrumental in addressing future issues for the rest of the country."

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