Aged care organisation behind elderly Jacinda Ardern billboard pleads for urgent change

The organisation behind a billboard showing an aged version of Jacinda Ardern and Grant Robertson said they resorted to the PR stunt to raise awareness of the need for nurses after their pleas for the immigration system to change fell on deaf ears.

Nearly 1000 aged care beds have been lost this year and the sector is blaming chronic underfunding, rising costs and harsh immigration settings.

By 2030, it is estimated another 12,000 to 16,000 aged care beds will be needed, which is as many beds as there are in the entire public hospital network, Aged Care Matters said.

Newshub revealed on Wednesday that since July, the Government has signed off on employers to recruit 1097 aged care nurses from overseas. While 95 nurses have applied and 69 have been approved, only five have arrived in the country. 

An eye-catching billboard right by Parliament showing Ardern and Robertson aged in their 80s demonstrated by the time Ardern is 82, we will be more than 66,000 beds short.

The billboard right by Parliament shows Jacinda Ardern and Grant Robertson aged in their 80s.
The billboard right by Parliament shows Jacinda Ardern and Grant Robertson aged in their 80s. Photo credit: Newshub.

While Ardern said a campaign is not needed to tell them how important the healthcare sector is, Aged Care Matters said they had to get crafty with their campaign since their message is largely falling on deaf ears.

"Aging the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister, in a graceful way, was to bring more attention to it. We have been trying to talk to the Government about the issues that we're facing but we're not really seeing any outcome," Aged Care Matters spokesperson Jeremy Nicoll told Melissa Chan-Green on AM.

It's not just aged care nurses in high demand, Nicoll said the crisis for healthcare workers is across our entire health system and overseas.

"There is a global war for talent in healthcare," Nicoll said.

Concerningly, in the heart of Auckland, there are billboards enticing Kiwi healthcare workers to move to the Australian state of Victoria.

In June, New South Wales announced its biggest-ever boost of $4.5 billion to recruit more than 10,000 staff, many of whom will be Kiwis. 

"Their immigration settings are a lot more favourable to registered nurses in particular and so we are asking the Government to address the inability for registered nurses to get an immediate residency pathway to come to New Zealand," Nicoll said. 

"We want to be able to hold on to our nurses, so a lot of that comes down to pay and funding so we do see that this crisis isn't going to go away."

For months the aged care sector has been pleading for urgent Government intervention to prevent the sector from collapsing due to chronic staff shortages.

Nurses are technically on the residency fast track but are in a select group of migrant workers who need to work for two years first.

Nicoll warned with the current settings from the Government the situation is going to worsen.

"I am bewildered about why the setting hasn't changed. You talk to anybody on the street, everyone agrees that we need more healthcare workers in this country," he said.

Aged Care Matters is hoping by raising awareness will help with the Government's decision-making process. But is also looking to the opposition to what measures they will put in their policies to help healthcare going into the election year.