Education & Training:
Building & Amenities:
News briefs March/April 2012
Careerforce and Health Ed Trust call it quits
Increased pressure on funding for industry training organisations (ITOs) by the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) has indirectly resulted in a breakdown of the relationship between the aged care sector’s ITO, Careerforce, and Health Ed Trust (HET), a major provider of aged care training.
Careerforce has come under fire from HET for its failure to renew its agreement last year, ultimately leaving the training provider in an untenable situation. A potential solution was found in a merger, which was agreed to by both parties. However, subsequent discussions involving payment to HET of $500,000 quickly saw the proposed amalgamation dissolve. HET believes the money was to “buy them out” and close down the ACE programmes within two years; Careerforce maintains the money was to show support for HET’s continued operation.
HET’s official decision not to amalgamate with Careerforce and to continue its operations without ITO funding was made by the board on 29 February this year following a messy scramble from both parties to communicate their side of the story to the sector.
Claims have emerged that Careerforce may be in breach of both the Industry Training Act and the Commerce Act, indicating that this story may not have reached its conclusion just yet.
See more online for an in-depth look at the issues surrounding the fall out between Careerforce and HET.
Holmdene joins national elite
Following an independent audit last year, Presbyterian Support Otago’s (PSO) Holmdene Home & Hospital in Balclutha recently received four-year Ministry of Health Certification, putting the home in New Zealand’s top three per cent of aged care providers in terms of giving the very best of care for residents.
According to Gillian Bremner, the chief executive of PSO, just 21 out of 700 homes have this top recognition, with five – Elmslie House, Ross Home, Ranui, Taieri Court and now Holmdene – belonging to PSO.
Holmdene, which has been an integral part of Balclutha for 47 years, is home to 35 people with 13 in the rest home and 22 receiving hospital-level care.
The audit included reviews of policies and procedures, observation of how services were provided to residents, surveys of and meetings with residents and families, and interviews with rest home management.
“We know our staff are doing a great job but having that belief endorsed officially by independent auditors is extremely satisfying,” says Bremner.
Holmdene manager Steph Leith echoes Bremner’s pleasure at the result and says she was “absolutely delighted” with the outcome of the independent audit.
“I was particularly thrilled the auditing team reported that there were no improvements required.”
Leith attributes the success to PSO’s ‘Valuing the Lives of Older People’ philosophy, which recognises that with the right support and services, ageing can be a positive experience resulting in a sense of contribution and satisfaction with everyday life.
Exercise best defence against muscle wastage
Emerging research from Australia suggests elderly people should continue exercising to combat muscle wastage.
Researchers at the University of Western Australia have discovered that permanent disconnection between nerves and muscles may be the reason behind progressive loss of muscle mass and function in elderly people.
The research, published in medical and science journal PLoS One, states that if your nerves are letting go of muscles, then that is a one-way trip to loss of muscle function.
Compromised muscle function and loss of muscle mass in older age, known as sarcopenia, is an increasing health problem with an expanding aged population. According to the researchers, everyone over 60 is affected by this progressive ageing condition to some degree.
The findings open up opportunities for new interventions to slow down muscle loss and improve health and quality of life with ageing.
Subsequently, further studies are currently under way to understand why nerves let go of muscles in older age. Their observations identify a new target for reducing sarcopenia and strengthen the argument for regular exercise to slow down muscle wastage.
It is hoped this research will lead to the development of new therapeutic approaches to combat sarconpenia without compromising a high quality of life with ageing.
Rare shingles vaccine on its way to New Zealand
Shingles is a painful, unsightly, viral infection that is difficult to treat and can lead to post herpetic neuralgia (PHN), nerve pain that can persist for months or even years in severe cases. Shingles affects one in three people during their lives, and risk and severity of shingles increases with age.
Fortunately for New Zealanders, particular older Kiwis, a limited quantity of the shingles vaccine, ZOSTAVAX® arrived on our shores in late-March.
MSD, the supplier of the vaccine, says once this supply is used up, it may be up to two years before another shipment arrives in the country, due to a global shortage of the vaccine.
People aged over 50 are advised to contact their GPs to enquire about this vaccine, which is a prescription medicine and will cost the patient around $200 for the one dose required.
MSD warns that like all medicines, this vaccination has risks and benefits and says that not everyone who is vaccinated will be protected against shingles. However, if a vaccinated person does contract shingles, the vaccine can help prevent PHN and reduce the intensity and length of time pain from shingles will last.
Advance orders are being taken for the vaccine now, so people over 50 who would like to avoid the pain of shingles are advised to talk to their doctors soon about whether this vaccine is right for them.
Good results for stock exchange newbie
Summerset Group Holdings Ltd recently announced its full year 2011 financial results, the first annual result to be released since the retirement village operator was listed on the New Zealand Stock Exchange in November last year.
The results showed an underlying profit to be $8.1 million, a 35 per cent increase on the initial public offering (IPO) forecast of $6 million. Sales of occupation rights had also improved against IPO forecasts and against 2010 results, making them the highest on record in the company’s 15-year history. In turn, this achieved good results for the 2011 net operating cash flow.
Managing director and CEO Norah Barlow attributed the results to a very strong performance in the second half of the year, driven by an early delivery of new developments and higher sales than predicted.
“Our new developments performed very well and existing villages experienced uplift in demand driven by a number of factors, including an increased brand profile and effective marketing initiatives.”
This year, Summerset is on track for more growth and looks set to deliver 155 units for 2012, adding to the company’s current land bank of 1052 units across New Zealand.
The company has also set its sights on winning the 2012 award for Best Retirement Village Operator in Australasia for a third consecutive year.
Aged care workers continue battle for more pay
Strike action by the members of the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) and Service and Food Workers Union (SFWU) continues after attempts at mediation with employer Oceania fail to resolve the ongoing pay dispute.
The unions have been seeking a 3.5 per cent pay rise for a one-year contract backdated to July 1 last year and ending on June 30 2012. Meanwhile Oceania’s wage offer was for three per cent over 15 months, the time period “from ratification of the new collective to until around May 31 2013,” according to a spokesperson from Oceania.
Oceania chief executive Guy Eady said in a statement that while Oceania “acknowledged the frustration” of the striking health care workers, its three per cent wage offer was “fair and reasonable” and in line with the government funding increase.
However, NZNO spokesman David Wait says the offer equates to a one per cent increase a year spread over three calendar years. According to Wait, the majority of experienced nurses employed at Oceania are earning at least $9000 less than their public hospital counterparts.
Wait says that while Oceania’s new graduate registered nurse (RN) pay rate compares favourably with the rest of the sector and district health boards ($49,600 compared to about $45,500 at DHBs), lack of automatic progress through the pay scale means many experienced nurses remain on that pay rate. The upshot is that the majority of RN members at Oceania are currently paid between $49,600 and $52,500, with only a “tiny minority” making it to the top of their pay scale of $57,700. By comparison, DHB nurses automatically progress to a base salary of $61,300 after five years’ experience.
Wait added that most not-for-profit aged care providers paid very similar pay rates to the DHB sector.
The strike action has so far involved staff at 30 of the 59 Oceania facilities signed up to the collective agreement, which has been under negotiation since the last contract expired at the end of June last year.
Wait said all aged nurses and workers are reluctant to take strike action and action was taken where thought to be most effective and where members felt most strongly.
According to an Oceania representative, Oceania was working to put on extra staff to ensure there was “minimal disruption” to residents and non-striking staff.
Wait voiced concerns that, during the first two-hour strike, at least one Auckland rest home brought in untrained health care assistants and two bureau nurses unfamiliar with the facility to provide coverage.
Eady refutes these claims. “We do not allow untrained people to be responsible for our elderly residents during this industrial action,” he says.
Mediation talks continue between the unions and Oceania in an effort to resolve the ten-month long dispute.
Meanwhile, at Radius, strike notices have been withdrawn to allow NZNO members working at Radius facilities around the country to vote on a new offer from Radius. Meetings will take place throughout April.
The Radius starting pay rate for health care assistants is currently $13 an hour and the top rate is $14.63, and the RN pay scale starts at $40,700 and has a top rate of $51,400.
Never too old to exercise
Claiming you are too old for aerobic work-outs may no longer be a valid excuse. New research from the School of Sport and Exercise Science at Victoria University in Melbourne shows that 70-year-olds can handle the intensity of aerobic work-outs on an exercise bike, despite their age or lack of fitness.
PhD researcher Victoria Wyckelsma, who led the pilot study, says the participants tolerated the intensity of the exercise very well.
“We think there’s no reason why older people can’t use more intense exercise like this to achieve greater fitness and wellbeing.”
The participants did four sets of intense four-minute bursts on exercise bikes, with three-minute rests in between each set.
“This high-intensity interval training is a different sort of training than you’d expect older people to be doing,” says Wyckelsma.
“But we think it may be more beneficial than longer sessions of low-intensity exercise, and being quicker, also easier to fit into a daily routine.”
It may therefore be time to rethink exercise routines for older people. Until 10 years ago it was thought older people should not do weights training, which is now a commonly accepted exercise for them.
Wyckelsma and study supervisors Professor Michael McKenna and Dr Itamar Levinger are now seeking volunteers over the age of 65 for a 12-week study to prove the physical benefits of the high-intensity training. Whilst most adults over 65 will qualify for this study, people with type 2 diabetes or those with heart disease are not eligible.
“We already know older people can handle this type of workout, now we just need to measure its benefit,” says Wyckelsma.
“We expect the trial will show big improvements in fitness, wellbeing and capacity to carry out daily activities. There’s no minimum fitness level or maximum age limit for this study.”
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