Govt boosts Aged Care nurses wages



The Government has agreed to boost aged care nurses pay by $200 million a year to close a wage gap with hospital-employed nurses.

Health Minister Andrew Little, announcing the funding decision on Monday morning, said the wages of nurses and healthcare assistant at aged-care facilities, hospices, and Māori and pacific healthcare organisations that have contracts with Te Whatu Ora-Health New Zealand would soon be paid more.

“The funding is to enable healthcare providers for whom there is a disparity in pay between their staff and equivalent hospital staff to bridge that gap,” Little said.

“The biggest differences are with aged and residential care, there’s no question there’s a significant disparity there.

“They are losing nursing staff and healthcare system staff to the hospital sector, and they need some stability, and they need something that helps them retain the people they’ve got, and attract people to that sector as well.”

Little expected that contracts between Te Whatu Ora and private employers of nurses in the aged-care and other sectors could be promptly redrawn to increase nurses’ pay.

Employers that already paid healthcare staff wages that were comparable to that of hospital staff would not be eligible to receive the funding.

Some $40m would be available for this in the remainder of this financial year, and from July 2023 there would be $200m a year to increase these healthcare workers’ pay.

“I expect in the first quarter of next year, that agreements will be reached,” Little said.

However, in some cases, collective employment agreements already being negotiated will need to be concluded before agreements for the new funds can be finalised.

Little said it was his expectation that nurses and healthcare assistants in GP practices would be initially excluded, however, as previous funding boosts by the Government had already increased pay of these workers to be on par with that of hospital staff.

The Government was also negotiating pay-equity agreements with midwives, allied health workers and home care and support workers, and a further $540m a year had been put aside for a pay equity settlement for nurses working for Te Whatu Ora.

“Even without having settled pay equity with the hospital nurses, there are still a pay differential that is quite significant, in some respects, that is seeing an outflow of both nurses and healthcare assistants from aged-residential care into hospitals.

“That helps the hospitals but it creates a real problem and aged-residential care.”

Little said, due to aged residential care facilities being short-staffed, patients were occupying hospital beds in situations instead of being discharged to residential care facilities.

“We help with staffing issues in aged residential care, then we increase the likelihood that people who are in hospital at the moment can be discharged to those places, so we improve the occupancy levels and take the pressure off hospitals.”