Nursing reports

Evolution Healthcare nurses strike for better wages, conditions

New Zealand Nurses Organisation media release, 19 October 2022

Nurses at three private hospitals, owned by Evolution Healthcare Ltd in Wellington and Hawke’s Bay, will embark on a 24-hour strike on Thursday morning following a breakdown of talks with their employer.

More than 230 NZNO Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa (NZNO) members have been in protracted bargaining with Evolution Healthcare for the past 15 months culminating in urgent but failed mediation via the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment on Wednesday.

“Our battle is over having decent wage increases and parity and conditions as nurses who work for Te Whatu Ora, and we are committed to achieving an increase that reflects what we are worth and mitigates the cost-of-living crisis all members face,” Wakefield Hospital nurse and NZNO delegate Lisa Blackmore said.

“Our demands include wages backpaid at the rate of inflation (7.3 percent); wages for 2022 onwards at Te Whatu Ora Pay Equity rates; and the same public holiday and sick leave entitlements as Te Whatu Ora employees.

“Evolution has offered well below this. They have resolutely refused to move and have not meaningfully engaged in mediation.”

The strike will take place from 7am on Thursday 20 October to 7am on Friday 21 October at the Wakefield and Bowen hospitals in Wellington, and Royston Hospital in Hawke’s Bay.


Media inquiries: Rob Zorn, NZNO Media and Communications Advisor: 027 431 2617.

Primary Health Care nurses to rally today

New Zealand Nurses Organisation media release, 29 August 2022

Members of the New Zealand Nurses Organisation Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa (NZNO) will be holding public rallies today in five main centres to call on the Government to ensure Te Whatu Ora Health New Zealand (formerly the DHBs) urgently provides the funding needed to properly value Aotearoa’s Primary Health Care nurses.

The main centres are Auckland, Tauranga, Hamilton, Wellington and Christchurch and the rallies will run from 12.30 until 1.30pm.

Primary Health Care nurses work in areas of the health system such as General Practice, after-hours emergency centres, Plunket, Māori and iwi health providers, Urgent Care and Family Planning. They have the same qualifications, training and responsibilities as Te Whatu Ora nurses, but are paid significantly less.

A nurse at a medical centre typically earns 10-20 percent less, and nurses working for Māori and iwi providers can earn up to 25 percent less.

Many employers say they want to pay their staff the same rates as Te Whatu Ora nurses, but they can’t do so without increased capitation funding from the Government.

Christchurch-based Primary Health Care nurse Denise Moore says many nurses are leaving Primary Health Care for hospital-based jobs with Te Whatu Ora where they can earn more, and that this is causing real problems for members of the community.

“I don’t blame nurses for leaving Primary Health Care for better pay because it is hard to make ends meet on our wages, but it does make things worse for those who remain because staff numbers are so low and the hours are already long and arduous.

“When employers can’t find new nurses to replace the ones who have left, it means they have to cut services or delay appointments and that affects everyone in the community.”

Registered nurse Gina Chaffey works at a Māori Health provider in Tairawhiti. She says she would never leave her Primary Health Care role because it is about the people.

“He aha te mea nui o te ao? He Tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata. Meeting the needs of my people is always paramount and they depend on me. But why is the pay gap for nurses who work in Primary Health Care or for Iwi so big? The Government needs to step up and meet its obligations under te Tiriti.

“Injustice has been a lifetime battle for Māori and pay parity with Te Whatu Ora nurses would be a step towards equality. Like them we studied for our nursing degrees, and we go way beyond the call of duty every day. It just isn’t right that the Government funds one group of nurses more than another.”

At today’s rallies members of the public will be invited to rate the Government’s performance on fairly paying Primary Health Care nurses by placing a sticker on their chosen location on a large Plunket chart. They can also cast a ballot to vote on how well they think the Government is doing at valuing Primary Health Care Nurses.

The rallies will be at the following locations, starting at 12.30pm.

  • Auckland: Corner of Memorial Drive and Gt North Road, New Lynn
  • Tauranga: Red Square (bottom of Devonport Road)
  • Hamilton: Garden Place, Victoria Street
  • Wellington: Midland Park, Lambton Quay
  • Christchurch: Riverside Market


Media inquiries: Rob Zorn, NZNO Media and Communications Advisor: 027 431 2617.

Whangārei nursing staff demand better winter incentives

New Zealand Nurses Organisation media release, 29 July 2022

New Zealand Nurses Organisation Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa (NZNO) delegates at Whangārei Hospital met with their employer today to demand better winter payment incentives. 

Within 18 hours, more than 80 percent of affected staff were willing to put their name and position forward in support of the letter of demand, which was presented to the employer at the meeting. 

NZNO delegate Rachel Thorn said nursing staff, including health care assistants (HCAs) and other health workers, are worn out from working extra shifts to fill a large number of gaps in the nursing roster. 

“This is having a hugely negative effect on our personal wellbeing and family lives, leading to increased sick leave, burnout and resignations. Despite this, we have been working extra hours to keep the department safe for patients and support our colleagues.

“This has been done out of loyalty to our manager and the department but the good will has run out.”

While nursing staff are being offered an incentive payment, the payment being paid to doctors is eight times higher depending on the timing of the extra shifts. 

“Nurses are feeling really disrespected. This unequitable offer has left us feeling a deep lack of care or consideration from Te Whatu Ora Health New Zealand. The doctors we’ve spoken to agree and are shocked by the offer. Payments should increase by the same percentage for nursing staff who are just as vital for patient wellbeing,” Ms Thorn said. 

She said the employer met with doctors’ unions and negotiated much better winter support packages, including agreements to ensure the wellbeing of doctors working additional shifts, but did not negotiate with nurses or NZNO. 

“They just presented the amount to nursing staff without wellbeing support, without enough time to consider the payment and with no negotiation whatsoever. That just confirms to us that we are undervalued and many of us are refusing to take on the stress of extra shifts because it just isn’t worth the personal cost. 

“Unfortunately, our management have failed to deal with the staffing crisis and have effectively passed the burden onto the workers. We knew there was a crisis. We knew the winter surge was coming but it is clear that there was no planning, care or consideration for nurses, HCAs or other health care workers.  

“We expect our employer to step up and commit to resolving these issues, and one way to do that would be better winter incentive payments, as a short-term solution to these acute staff shortages. We should not be asked to sacrifice our families and our own wellbeing if we are not being valued at work.” 

NZNO says it plans to lodge a claim with Te Whatu Ora Health New Zealand next week for significant improvement on the Winter Incentive payments (and for consistent penal rates) across the country for nursing staff. 


Media inquiries: Rob Zorn, NZNO Media and Communications Advisor: 027 431 2617.

‘Desperate’ health system putting student nurses at risk

New Zealand Nurses Organisation media release, 26 July 2022

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa (NZNO) says nursing shortages have become so dire that Dunedin Hospital has called on nursing students to do tasks normally done by qualified nurses, placing the students at unacceptable risk. It wants to know what the Government’s plan is to keep nursing staff safe and to address the chronic shortage.

The students were asked to do patient-watch work, in exchange for a $200 Countdown voucher, because the hospital said it was ‘desperate’ for help as chronic understaffing was putting patient safety at significant risk. The students did not receive orientation training to the promised level, and one of the students was hit while working at the hospital.

NZNO student representative Manu Reiri said the students had little idea what the watch work involved, and most were unlikely to have been in a hospital ward before.

“They were supposed to be under the direction and delegation of registered nurses, which also placed employed staff at increased risk as they would be responsible for whatever mistakes were made under extremely busy and trying work conditions.

“A hospital resorting to this, against its own better judgement out of desperation, indicates just how critical the situation is.

“Dunedin Hospital is the employer responsible under the Health and Safety Act to anticipate and mitigate the risks arising from chronic staffing shortages, and the buck for that stops with the Government.

“We’ve been asking the Government what its plan is around safe staffing for more than a year, and there has been nothing of substance offered to date.”

Manu Reiri said the staffing crisis is worsening every day and that it was clear another approach is needed.

“We need to do things differently, and to manage that we need to be consulting and working together to ensure we are working on a plan to address understaffing in both the short- and long-term. This is what the Health and Safety Act requires and it is clearly not happening.

“Incidents like this are likely to happen again as desperation in the health system is everywhere. Dunedin Hospital did this under the radar and without working in accordance with the Health and Safety Act because it just didn’t see any other option, and that is deeply troubling.”


Media inquiries: Rob Zorn, NZNO Media and Communications Advisor: 027 431 2617.

2700 heartfelt pleas to Health Minister by members of NZNO

Embargoed until 12.30pm, 20 July 2022

New Zealand Nurses Organisation media release, 20 July 2022

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation, Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa (NZNO) says it received more than 2700 responses (in just two days) after inviting members to send a message to the Minister of Health about the nursing/health crisis.

NZNO gave its members the opportunity in response to Health Minister Andrew Little’s persistent assertions that there is no health crisis and that the system as a whole is coping.

NZNO Kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku said one only has to read the news to see that the system is actually on the brink of collapse, just as many health professionals are saying.

“Ninety-nine percent of responding members said the system was either in crisis (70 percent) or already beyond crisis (29 percent).

“What word we use to describe this situation is probably not important, but the Government’s insistence that this is just a temporary situation caused by covid and a cold winter has made nurses feel unheard and completely undervalued, and that is evident in the messages to the Minister. Many are furious, and many are in tears as they write.”

Some of the messages are lengthy, and NZNO President Anne Daniels said the fact that so many went to such lengths to share their thoughts is significant.

“Decades of poor planning, inadequate funding and outright neglect have led us to a time of absolute crisis in terms of pay, staffing resources and morale across the nursing sector.

“This isn’t a temporary glitch; many are seeing it as the end of the road, with 72 percent of respondents saying they are either seriously thinking of leaving nursing or New Zealand, or that they had already made plans to do so.

“This is not union officials opining in Wellington. These messages are the heartfelt pleas of nurses and other health workers right across the country working in a wide variety of nursing sectors. We hope for their sakes that the Health Minister and the Government will be willing to listen.” 

Interestingly, 95 percent of respondents (not all of whom work in the DHB sector) said honouring the promised back pay to DHB nurses and extending DHB Pay Equity rates to all nurses in New Zealand, regardless of where they practice, was one of the most important things Government could do to help address the nursing/health crisis.

The book of messages, amounting to 330 pages of print, will be anonymised and delivered to the Health Minister today at 12 Noon by a small team of Wellington region NZNO delegates.  Journalists would be welcome to photograph and speak with these members at Parliament at around 12.30pm.


Media inquiries: Rob Zorn, NZNO Media and Communications Advisor: 027 431 2617.

Further information: survey stats


Nurses completing the survey were from all sectors: DHB; Primary Health Care; Aged Care; Private Hospital and Hospice; and Māori and iwi. Responses were received from all 20 DHB regions.

Is there a crisis?

2735 answered the question about whether there was a nursing crisis. No and Maybe were answer choices. 1910 (70 percent) said there was a crisis. A further 29 percent said the situation was already beyond crisis. 

How does the Government denial of a health crisis make you feel? 

Indifferent was an available choice. However, 39 percent said they were angry; 19 percent said they were disillusioned; 41 percent said they felt undervalued. Total = 99 percent.

Are you thinking of leaving nursing?

  • Seriously thinking about leaving: 33 percent
  • Seriously thinking about taking a nursing job overseas: 27 percent
  • Already made plans to leave for good: 5 percent
  • Already made plans to nurse overseas: 6 percent
  • Determined to battle on: 28 percent. 

In other words, less than a third indicated they wanted to stay in their jobs.

What are the most important things Government could do to help address the nursing/health crisis?

  • Honour the promised Pay Equity back pay for DHB nursing staff, and extend those Pay Equity rates to all nursing sectors: 96 percent.
  • Provide more nurses: 80 percent
  • Prioritise health and safety in workplaces: 70 percent
  • Put internationally qualified nurses on the fast track to residency: 64 percent
  • Remove financial barriers for nursing students: 60 percent
  • Make it cheaper and easier for IQNs already here to gain registration: 53 percent
  • Implement te Tiriti across the health system: 34 percent.

NZNO calls for urgent health sector Conference on crisis

New Zealand Nurses Organisation media release, 13 July 2022

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa (NZNO) is calling on the Minister of Health to acknowledge there is a nursing and health crisis, and for an immediate Conference of health sector spokespeople to focus on the crisis and potential solutions.

The call comes after what NZNO says is a series of inaccurate and disparaging remarks made in the media by Heath Minister Andrew Little about NZNO and other organisations speaking out about the crisis.

NZNO Chief Executive Paul Goulter said the continued comments are unhelpful.

“Just one example is the matter of the DHB Pay Equity back pay, which is before the Employment Relations Authority – exactly where the Government’s legislation says such disputes should go.

“To say NZNO reneged on the deal is inaccurate because no deal can be accepted until it is voted on by members, and to accuse the organisation of lying (speaking with a forked tongue) is misleading and inflammatory. It is unhelpful and ignores the wishes of the 35,000 DHB NZNO members who voted overwhelmingly not to proceed with the proposed settlement’s ratification.”

He said the Minister’s continued comments have upset and angered members, only adding to the disillusionment they feel over his denial that there is a crisis and because their desperate pleas for help have been ignored for years.

“Member feedback on the Minister’s comments today has been swift and angry, and they want to speak out.

“We are asking our members to use an online tool to let the Minister know directly what they face every day in their workplace to help him form a further view on whether or not there is a crisis.

“We’ll compile member responses and present them to the Minister and this will be a useful basis for a whole of sector Conference on the crisis and the urgent need to work together to find real solutions.”


Media inquiries: Rob Zorn, NZNO Media and Communications Advisor: 027 431 2617.

NZNO promises to 'go hard' for nursing with new campaign

New Zealand Nurses Organisation media release, 11 May 2022

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa (NZNO) says it will be launching a new campaign tomorrow through which it intends to win the political and resourcing commitments needed to address the nursing shortage crisis permanently – and across the whole health sector.

12 May is International Nurses Day, and NZNO Chief Executive Paul Goulter says that’s the perfect time to launch Maranga Mai! (meaning ‘Rise up!’), an ambitious campaign that calls on every nurses everywhere in New Zealand to rise up together and demand that they be resourced and enabled to do their jobs safely and well.

“So much has been asked of nurses, midwives, health care assistants and kaimahi hauora, and they have delivered like the courageous and professional workforce they are, right across Health. I am not just talking about our DHB-run hospitals.

“But decades of poor planning, inadequate funding and outright neglect have led us to a time of absolute crisis in terms of pay, staffing resources and morale across the nursing sector.

“NZNO intends to go hard. We will be relentless in pursuit of our goals and we will not stop until they are achieved.”

Central to the Maranga Mai! campaign will be the ‘Five Fixes’ which form the charter of demands for the campaign:

  1. te Tiriti actualised within and across the health system
  2. more nurses across the health sector
  3. pay and conditions that meet nurses’ value and expectations
  4. more people training to be nurses
  5. more Māori and Pasifika nurses.

Paul Goulter says these are what is needed to solve the crisis and that NZNO must be at the table when decisions are made affecting nursing.

“We are more than 55,000 strong and growing. We have a portfolio of solutions and it’s time for Government to listen and involve us so we can work together on fixing this.”

He said a start would be addressing Pay Equity issues for DHB nursing staff without delay and honouring back pay obligations, which would reassure nurses they are valued and go some way towards restoring trust.

“And then those improved rates have to be rolled out across other sectors so people will want to become nurses and want to work where they are needed instead of where the better money is. I’m talking about Aged Care, Primary Care, and especially Māori and iwi providers where nurses earn 30 percent less than their colleagues in other sectors.”

He said a second solution is to implement mandatory staff to patient ratios in every area of health, supported by staff allocation systems and programmes that match nursing resources to patient needs.

“These are the sorts of things it is going to take to guarantee quality of care and that nurses have the time to see that patient needs are met in a compassionate and holistic way.

“Make no mistake about it, people are sicker than they need to be and some are dying because of the nursing crisis and it is time to get serious about addressing this.

“We are deadly serious. Maranga Mai! is not just a campaign for every nurse everywhere. It’s a campaign that will benefit all people in Aotearoa New Zealand because nurses who are well-resourced to do their work without the constant stress of being short-staffed will improve access to good health care and services for all of us.”

Maranga Mai! will be launched at an online forum for members at 11am on Thursday 12 May 2022.


Media inquiries: Rob Zorn, NZNO Media and Communications Advisor: 027 431 2617.

NZNO welcomes Living Wage increase

New Zealand Nurses Organisation media release, 1 April 2022

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation, Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa (NZNO) welcomes today’s announced Living Wage increase to $23.65. It says all health employers, from DHBs through to primary care and Māori and iwi providers, must step up and set the Living Wage as the minimum for themselves and their contractors.

NZNO Kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku said the health sector, like any other, cannot prosper on the back of poor pay rates that often perpetuate poverty. 

“Governments have ignored the wage crisis for far too long and driven many whānau into hardship.

“A lot of nurses, midwives, health care assistants and kaimahi hauora, some currently earning below the Living Wage, are taking second jobs or leaving their profession because the pressures of working within the health system are not worth the mental and physical distress. This is only exacerbated when it’s hard to put food on the table.”

Ms Nuku said that to survive on low wages both parents or caregivers often need to work yet still barely keep their head above water.

“The slightest change to income or expenses takes months to recover from and the mental impact on everyone in the family is significant. It’s so much harder for children to have a decent start in life with both parents having to work for the minimum wage.   

“There is no wellbeing in these types of wages and that is why an accurate Living Wage that reflects the minimum required to meet basic wellbeing needs is so important.

“If smaller health providers say they cannot afford to pay what is needed to live with dignity, then funding models must be urgently reassessed.”

NZNO has long been a Living Wage employer and extends that requirement to its contractors.


Media inquiries: Rob Zorn, NZNO Media and Communications Advisor: 027 431 2617.

Symptomatic nurses asked to return to work a clear sign of a desperate health system

New Zealand Nurses Organisation media release, Date 8 March 2022

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation | Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa (NZNO) says workers delivering critical health services, who are COVID-19 cases and who have no or mild symptoms, can now be asked to return to work in Covid wards.

NZNO Kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku says this further change to the Public Health Order is just one more in a series of desperate changes put in place to address crisis-level nursing shortages.

“After years of neglect and a woeful lack of planning to address the shortage everyone knew was coming, we are now stuck in the middle of a serious pandemic with very few nurses available to fill the growing gaps resulting from underlying short staffing. And widespread absence due to Covid has only compounded the problem.”

She said nurses can still refuse to work if mildly symptomatic, but that many will be feeling the pressure not to leave their colleagues even further understaffed.

“Only individuals can judge how unwell they are, and we really encourage nurses to be careful in what they commit to as symptoms can change very rapidly. They need to put their own wellbeing first.

“And the DHBs must recognise their obligations to protect staff and the community and should be looking for extra ways to support and recognise nurses who agree to take on this additional burden.

 “They need to keep talking with us about how amendments to the Health Act are actioned and how the best interests of staff remain the priority.”

Ms Nuku said understaffing in the nursing sector is only going to get worse at a time we need it most and the Government has to take urgent action now to attract nurses who have left back into the workforce and recruitment drives to encourage people into nursing careers.

“We keep hearing from the top that things are fine and that hospitals are prepared, but those on the coalface say this is absolutely not true, and covid-positive nurses being asked to work while unwell is clear proof of that.”


Media inquiries: Rob Zorn, NZNO Media and Communications Advisor: 027 431 2617.

Worried Auckland nurses say health system anything but okay

New Zealand Nurses Organisation media release, 8 December 2021

Nurses and other health workers at Auckland Metro district health boards (DHBs) say they are concerned that the picture of a robust health system painted by Wellington health officials is a far cry from the reality they face each day on the frontline.

“The country is being told over and over that the health system is fine and that we’re well-placed to handle a COVID surge,” says NZNO organiser Sarah Barker.

“That might be what DHB executives are reporting, but Auckland nurses say they’re already dealing with caseloads they can’t handle. They’re stretched to the maximum and people are falling through the cracks right now.

“Because of lockdown and the Auckland outbreak, people aren’t coming to the emergency department until they are gravely ill. There are also huge spikes in people with mental health and social issues and people whose conditions are significantly worse because COVID has delayed their much-needed surgeries.

“There just aren’t enough nurses to deal with these complex needs, and nurses say their colleagues are departing at a rate of knots.”

Ms Barker says nurses are still expected to provide adequate and expert care when working conditions are both intolerable and unsustainable.

“We don’t expect people to work in hazardous workplaces, but nurses are continually being asked to do just that, and virtually nothing is being done to manage the situation by the people with the power to do so.

“Nurses are ignored or side-lined when they raise the alarm. Agreed escalation processes that would reprioritise less urgent care are not being used to reduce pressure on our health system, and staffing shortages are not being proactively addressed.”

She says some of the things nurses suggest could be done include active recruitment campaigns; free nursing education; and making it cheaper and easier for people to visit their general practitioner.

“Nurses don’t want to be just the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, but right now that’s about all they have capacity to do.

“I am really concerned that the Government is telling the people we can handle a COVID surge when the reality is we have 1000 health care worker vacancies across the Auckland region. This isn’t getting any better, and we’re actually in pretty deep trouble.”


Media inquiries: Rob Zorn, NZNO Media and Communications Advisor: 027 431 2617.