'Hundreds' of aged care jobs may go

9:47 am on 28 March 2011

Aged care providers estimate several hundred workers in the sector will be unemployed because of the Christchurch earthquake.

New Zealand's largest provider Oceania has lost two of its seven Christchurch rest homes and says it believes the quake on 22 February has cost it $40 million.

It says it was able to relocate 40 staff, but 150 others took redundancy.

Oceania chief executive Geoff Hipkins says uncertainty about the future building code in Christchurch is frustrating and providers are in limbo until this is settled.

Mr Hipkins believes a national inquiry into building codes should be fast-tracked, so it only takes a maximum of six months.

The local district health board says 636 aged care beds have been lost since the quake and careful management of the beds that remain will be needed for months.

Those in the sector say one worker is generally needed for every bed, so hundreds of jobs will go.

Another aged care provider, Bupa, says the evacuation of elderly people following the quake was tough on them.

Health authorities and the Government have defended the decision to move hundreds of elderly people to other parts of New Zealand, because of damage to rest homes and the need to keep them safe.

Bupa chief executive Dwayne Crombie says the Canterbury District Health Board was justified in taking such steps.

These included sending people as far as Auckland, sometimes late at night, by road or by Air Force Hercules or Boeing planes.