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Long-serving rural nurse has three Budget wishes

Auckland rural practice nurse and NZNO member Ros Gallagher is worried about the future of nursing in Aotearoa New Zealand but has made three wishes for Budget 2023 on 18 May.

Ms Gallagher has been a rural nurse for 29 years. She is concerned at the way nurses who work in Primary Health Care and in particular general practice continue to be treated.

Despite the best efforts of herself an others in the union, general and rural practice nurses have again been excluded from the Government’s payments to address Pay Parity and Gallagher said this has felt like another kick in the guts.

She feels angry, sad, disappointed, and personally very devalued, but says proper funding through the Budget would be a good start to appeasing nurses’ woes.

"My three wishes from Budget funding would be, firstly, pay our employers more so that in turn their nursing staff would be paid better and don’t have to look elsewhere to earn a better living.

"They would also need more money in the system for recruiting and retaining staff to address chronic understaffing.

"And thirdly, fund free study for nurses and pay students during their placements. This will help stop nurses dropping out, especially for third year students who often stop their studies out of frustration and financial desperation."

She said that the rising cost of living, higher interest rates for mortgages and the high cost of fuel, mean all practice nurses would be struggling at the moment, especially those only paid current Multi-Employer Collective Agreement rates.

"I drive some distance to work as I live in a rural area, so petrol is costing me a lot more these days.

"I also am aware of the predicted measles and whooping cough epidemics due to low immunisation rates. This is likely to increase. as it is practice nurses who deliver childhood immunisations.

"The more that leave for greener pastures the lower the rates will be, as appointments to receive immunisations will be less available."

She questioned whether the Government was really committed to Pay Parity among nurses.

"If they are committed then why have they not yet addressed GP practice nurses’ wages?"

Ms Gallagher said, with the change to immigration rules, she expects many more nurses will take the opportunity to go to Australia as "younger practice nurses would be silly not to consider it".

"If I wasn’t nearing retirement age, I would probably consider it too! I am really concerned as I near retirement. Who are the nurses who will take my place?

"I am cutting my days down to three per week come August 2023. Even this will have quite an impact on my colleagues."

"Many GP employers would like to pay their nurses more and some do. The reality is this: unless Government funding for general practice is significantly increased many will remain unable to afford to remunerate their staff adequately.

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