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Falling nursing home rates questioned

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 11/04/2017

As the number of New Zealanders over the age of 85 grows, the Aged Care Association is questioning why nursing home occupancy rates are falling.

Last year the number of residents at Capital and Coast District Health Board aged care facilities fell by 3.9 per cent, while nationally occupancy was down by 1.4 per cent.

While the DHB says it's supporting a a preference for independence, ACA chief executive Simon Wallace believes it could be a cost cutting exercise that may lead some homes to no longer be viable.

"We believe some, not all, but some are withholding access to rest homes for people who have been assessed as requiring care and based on their health outcomes they should be in care," Mr Wallace told NZ Newswire.

Mr Wallace said they were hearing anecdotal reports about those needing care being turned away, despite there not being a shortage of places.

He said occupancy below 90 per cent can make homes unviable.

Figures from December show just five DHBs have occupancy levels above 90 per cent, while 15 are between 80 and 90 per cent and one at 79 per cent.

"We're seeing this at a time when the age demographic is increasing, particularly in the over 85 cohort, yet seeing falling occupancy," he said.

But Capital and Coast DHB's executive director of strategy, innovation and performance, Rachel Haggerty, put falling occupancy down to people preferring to live independently.

"We use a national assessment tool to determine what support is required, and have made it easier for people to remain in their homes with intensive support services around them when discharged.

"We know from feedback that patients prefer to remain at home and be independent. We are investing more in support services to do this.''

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