One of New Zealand's largest rest homes shuts due to nurse shortage, warnings more closures to come

One of New Zealand's largest rest homes is closing its doors because it can't find enough registered nurses.

And they're warning that other aged care facilities will be next.

Reminiscing over family photos is something Bernadette McCabe's mum Philomena has been doing here for two years, but they've just been told their rest home is closing.

"Quite devastated. There's been a few tears," McCabe said. "It's a big, big wrench."

She's worried her mum won't survive moving rest homes.

"My biggest fear is that she will not actually have the stamina to do the journey," McCabe said.

St Joseph's Home of Compassion has been caring for Upper Hutt's elderly for nearly 100 years.

With 87 beds and a state-of-the-art dementia wing it needs 15 registered nurses, but it has just five and can't continue to operate safely.

 "We don't want to close, this is an incredibly sad day. Something we don't want to do," St Joseph's CEO Chris Gallavin said.

Gallavin told residents and their families in a meeting on Thursday morning.

"A stunned silence for most of it. It will take a long time to sink in," he said.

The rest home is working with Health NZ to find new homes for residents but with many facilities already full, it's a big challenge.

"Inevitably there will be people that for a time may end up back in a public hospital and that's not the best place for them to be," New Zealand Aged Care Association's chief executive Simon Wallace said. 

St Joseph's is one of many aged care facilities that are shutting because of staffing shortages in the past six months more than 1000 rest home beds have closed and more could follow.

"There are a number of homes in the area and nationally that are on the brink of closure as well," Gallavin said.

Because the sector needs 12,000 more nurses it's been calling on the Government for two years to improve pay parity with hospitals, improve immigration settings, and invest more in training.

"Largely our requests have been falling on deaf ears and this has been really frustrating for us," Wallace said.  

"I've listened very carefully to what they've said so that's why we are significantly increasing the effort going into recruiting nurses - not just public system but funded sector which includes aged residential care," Health Minister Andrew Little said.

An increase that's come too late for this rest home.

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