The New Zealand Nurses Organisation Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa (NZNO) says while the Governments Budget offers some staffing relief and pay adjustments it fails to respond to the frontline crisis in health.
NZNO President Anne Daniels says while the $1 billion investment is welcome, most of it was already committed in the 2022 budget and significantly more new spending was required to meet the need in the health care system.
Ms Daniels said Budget 2023 provides no significant additional core funding for health which will continue the crisis of acute workforce shortages and unmet health need.
"There was an opportunity in this Budget to commit additional funding beyond the $1.3 billion uplift announced in Budget 2022 that could have meaningfully addressed the workforce shortages and need for improved pay and conditions across the entire health system."
She said 500 new nurses is a step in the right direction, but 4000 new nurses are required urgently just to plug the most urgent gaps alone.
"This is a drop in the ocean of what’s required. An additional 500 new nurses will not resolve burnout and fatigue that chronic staffing shortages brings to the workplace for nurses."
NZNO Kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku said there is no clear pathway to remedy poor health outcomes for Māori in this Budget. Nor is there anything to specifically address the urgent need for Māori and Pasifika nurses.
"We need an increased percentage of Māori and Pasifika nurses to ensure people receive health care that that is culturally sensitive and appropriate for them. Nurses need adequately resourced and staffed workplaces to deliver the safe, timely, accessible care that New Zealanders deserve."
Ms Daniels said nurses and other health workers are in the frontline every day working under tremendous pressure, but the seriousness of this situation seems to be eluding our government.
"There is a growing exodus of nurses from the New Zealand health system who need to be retained. While there are inevitable delays to growing a skilled and regulated workforce to the degree needed in the short-term, there are steps that can be taken to recruit, attract and train nurses. Nothing in this budget addresses the need for increased funding for training for example."
While some wraparound initiatives are expected to alleviate pressure in the health system such as scrapping prescription fees and an emphasis on primary care there is inadequate provisions to fund the frontline to ensure accessible, safe and timely care is delivered.
In the context of the limited spending, some important initiatives will address the cost-of-living issues that can restrict patient access to primary and community care.
"Increased funding for pay parity in primary healthcare will be welcomed to address disparities.
"However, there are many other nurses who have not been valued in this Budget, with no mention of cost of living pay increases for them."