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NZNO pleased to see Health Workforce Plan

New Zealand Nurses Organisation media release, 5 July 2023

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa (NZNO) welcomes the Health workforce plan, released yesterday by the Ministry of Health’s Workforce Taskforce.

NZNO Manager of Nursing and Professional Services Mairi Lucas says there has never been a specific strategy addressing the health workforce and that is part of the problem.

“Had such a plan been produced 20 years ago, when this current crisis was first predicted, we wouldn’t be in this mess.”

Ms Lucas said it was great to see both Health Minister Hon Ayesha Verrall and the plan itself, acknowledge there has been a failure in long-term workforce planning resulting in our current staffing shortage.

“Significant mahi has been done by NZNO delegates, members and officials to highlight the dire situation nurses have struggled with for too long, so the plan – which includes many of the focus areas of NZNO’s Maranga Mai! strategy – is certainly welcome.

“Growing pathways for Māori and Pasifika into health are the first and second of six defined action areas in the Taskforce’s plan, and we agree that we cannot fix staffing shortages or reduce the health burden without more Māori and Pasifika nurses providing culturally appropriate care.

“It’s also good to see that settling outstanding pay issues, collaborative pay negotiations and helping staff stay safe at work are key tenets in the fifth action area: Supporting and retaining our valued workforce.”

She said the important thing now is to ensure that the new pay gap between Te Whatu Ora and other areas of nursing, such as: Community; Primary Health Care; Māori and Iwi; and Aged Care does not exacerbate the problem of these nurses leaving their current roles for ones where they are better able to provide for their whānau.

“The plan estimates New Zealand is currently short 4800 nurses across the whole health system (not including midwives) and predicts that number will have risen to 8000 by 2032. We’d like to see the evidence and core data behind those numbers.

“NZNO currently has a bargaining claim with Te Whatu Ora for staffing ratios that would guarantee enough nursing staff to meet patient numbers at all times. For health and safety reasons we need to be confident that the plan takes those future ratios into account.

“We have a massive problem, and we need all hands on deck and a workable strategy to get ourselves back on course. If we don’t the nurses, midwives, health care assistants and kaimahi hauora of the future will be working in even more horrendous conditions.

“The people of Aotearoa deserve a health system that can provide safe, quality care to ensure the wellbeing of us all.  To still be facing an understaffed, inaccessible and frankly dangerous health system in 2032 is the last thing anybody wants to see.”


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