New Zealand Nurses Organisation media release, 21 October 2021
The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) says Aotearoa New Zealand is dangerously underprepared for what seems an inevitable tsunami of community COVID cases that could completely break our health system, and that nurses must be part all proposed solutions.
NZNO Kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku says nurses are a highly skilled workforce and have risen to ever-increasing demands, but they are already burnt out and seriously understaffed. Meanwhile our health system is not adequate to meet the demands of Covid, which is only just beginning to have an impact.
“Basically, we’re saying to the Government that, even though you’re acknowledging things are frighteningly bad right now, ‘You ain’t seen nothing yet,’ and we would have been better prepared had you not decided to go it alone around nursing.
“The Government has not acted swiftly enough and, because it has not consulted with nursing experts or the nurses’ union, we have band aid solutions being applied all over the place that only serve to devalue nurses, while the heart of the problem has remained unaddressed.”
Ms Nuku says the announced 300 monthly MIQ spots for health workers is welcome news, but was a surprise that was way too little, way too late.
“Those 300 monthly health workers will be spread across the health sectors, including allied health, aged care, primary care and Māori and iwi providers starting two months from now – and they will need time to adjust to the Aotearoa New Zealand health system.
“Meanwhile we have around 3500 nursing vacancies nationally across the health sector. Even if the nurses took all 300 MIQ places each month, we wouldn’t be breaking even in a year’s time because so many nurses continue to leave.
“So we need a fair say in how those 300 health workers are selected and deployed each month.”
Ms Nuku also says the Government’s touted solution of training nurses to work in intensive care units (ICU) is also woefully inadequate.
“It takes two or three years after graduating to become a proficient ICU nurse. Nurses are incredible, but it is not a fair or realistic long-term solution to expect them to function professionally in ICU environments on the basis of four hours’ online training. This will put nurses and patients at risk.”
She says the Government must consult with nursing unions and professionals in addressing nursing problems so properly workable solutions can be found.
“How will we incentivise the right kinds of overseas nurses to come here? What are we doing to keep our nursing graduates here and in the profession? These questions should have been addressed months ago, but they still aren’t even a real focus.
“And this is about much more than hospitals and Covid. Evidence from around the world shows people are suffering and/or dying in other parts of health systems because so many resources have been shifted towards the Covid response.
“NZNO needs to be at the table when nursing issues are being decided by Government and the situation we currently find ourselves is just likely to get worse because that has not happened.”
Media inquiries: Rob Zorn, NZNO Media and Communications Advisor: 027 431 2617.