Mercy Parklands rest home in Ellerslie is considering closing after losing $100,000 per month. Video / NZ Herald
Residents, and their relatives, of a 97-bed 100-staff Auckland Catholic rest home losing $100,000/month are being consulted about possible closure due to a critical staff shortage.
But nothing is decided about the Ellerslie property founded
by the Mercy order of Nuns as a not-for-profit aged care facility.
Arthur Morris, chairman of Waiatarua Mercy Parklands, said the board would meet this coming week “but we have to seriously look at closure if we can’t find another way for sustainability”.
Around 100 staff work at the red brick rest home, developed in a circular layout.
“We’re under consultation with the unions and staff to investigate whether or not closure is an option. We’ve had a major change in recruitment which happened around April/May this year and instead of our normal occupancy of more than 90 beds, we’ve only got the staff to look after 70 residents. At 70 we don’t have the revenue to make ends meet. We’re consulting to see if we can find a way forward to get enough staff to make ends meet,” Morris said.
In the past few months, the rest of the home had been losing around $100,000/month, he said.
“We just can’t get staff. It’s almost like someone turned the tap off at the beginning of April this year. We couldn’t recruit. We’ve been fortunate because the aged care workforce is one that comes here from overseas and 70 per cent of our nurses and healthcare assistants are from India, Fiji and the Philippines. Almost all the rest of the staff are made up of people from many other countries so we rely on those people coming here and we just haven’t had the applications since April.”
The Herald reported this month how rest homes were short around 1200 nurses, had stopped admissions and staff were urgently needed.
Two relatives of Mercy Parkland’s residents said they were concerned about people in their 80s and 90s possibly having to leave.
“They have suffered only a few months’ losses,” one relative said. Yet the wider Mercy organization was extremely wealthy and he asked why closure was being discussed when the rest home could recover financially.
“Looking into the books of this charity group, the wider organization appears to be in rude financial health with $60m of managed investments, $23m of term deposits and cash donations of the many millions each year,” he said of the Mercy nuns who also run many schools and other care centres.
The site is also very valuable, the relative said.
Auckland Council’s valuation of the 1.3ha site at 12 Umere Cres is $22m, made up of $2.5m for the buildings but $19.5m for the sloping land site. The rest of the home is down a steep driveway and in park-like surroundings.
The rest home with hospital-level care is operated by Mercy Healthcare Auckland, part of the Ngā Whaea Atawhai o Aotearoa Tiaki Manatu Sisters of Mercy Ministries. It has 83 hospital beds, 13 beds for dementia patients and offers palliative and respite care.
Morris said although the Mercy ministries had other operations apart from Mercy Parklands, each entity had to be financially viable in its own right.
“People have a genuine concern about their relatives and I understand that,” Morris said.
A decision might be made within the next fortnight, he said.
The Charities Services showed Sisters of Mercy Ministries New Zealand had annual revenue of $95.5m in the March 31, 2021 year, which was the last time it filed its accounts. Total expenses were $86.4m resulting in a $9m surplus.
Assets are listed as being valued at $140.6m and total equity at $152.7m.
The purpose of the group is “to carry out the apostolic works for Ngā Whatea Atawhai o Aotearoa Sisters of Mercy New Zealand, including healthcare, education, community and social services”.
Property records show 12 Umere Cres is owned by the McAuley Trust, named after Mercy founder the venerable Catherine McAuley RSM, born in Dublin in 1778.
The property was previously held by the Sisters of Mercy (Roman Catholic Diocese of Auckland) Trust Board.
The Herald reported in March how a quarter of residents and staff at Mercy Parklands had Covid-19. In all, 27 out of 91 residents returned positive rapid antigen tests and 25 out of 109 staff had tested positive. All staff and residents were vaccinated, with one exemption for medical reasons.
“It’s a major stress,” Morris said then. “It keeps management and governance people awake at night.” The company had plenty of time to prepare for Omicron and had put precautions in place.
Many other charity or religious-based homes have closed lately.
In 2019, the Herald reported how seven rest homes and aged care places were closing.
In August, the Herald reported that an aged care facility which has survived almost 100 years would close due to staff shortages. St Joseph’s Home of Compassion in Upper Hutt was seriously affected by the nursing shortage, and up until now has been running on “fumes”, says its co-chief executive.
“It was difficult before Covid and it’s become increasingly unmanageable during and after Covid,” Dr Chris Gallavin said in August. “We’ve been on a wing and a prayer and had to beg borrow and steal staff to ensure we can continue to provide the high level of care we’re known for.”
Two years ago, the Herald also reported the closure of the Laura Fergusson facility at Greenlane and in 2017, the closure of the Caughey Preston rest home in Remuera.
Yet Metlifecare wants to spend $100m on its 7 Saint Vincent in Remuera alone, planning to demolish the 17-unit five-level Raukura building and replace that with a higher-needs new hospital.
That company plans 10 hospital-level facilities in existing villages and plans a further 10 in projects in the planned phase but not yet built.