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NZNO members march to Parliament in June 2021 after rejecting a pay offer. On Saturday, members will rally for political action to fix the crisis this year.
Tens of thousands of unionised nurses, midwives, and healthcare assistants will unite for marches and rallies this Saturday in 20 spots around the country, calling on politicians to address the nursing and health crisis – and they want the public to join them.
Organised by the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO), the rallies will mark the first-time call for united action from 57,000 members across every part of the health system, from hospitals to aged care and Māori-led organisations. The action is not a strike, NZNO confirmed
“The suffering of the people of New Zealand has to stop and nurses need to be able to nurse,” NZNO president Anne Daniels, who works in a Wellington hospital, said.
Nurses have the experience and specialist skills to provide safe and timely care, but can’t do that under current staffing, pay and working conditions, Daniels said.
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”Things are being cancelled,” Daniels said. “Simple operations like hip replacements, knee replacements stopping [patients] from being able to work, do what they love and be with family … this has to stop.
We are asking the public to come with us, because we know health is everybody’s business.”
The union says the issues come down to the same things for every nurse – unsafe staffing levels and a fundamental undervaluing of the work they do – and want political parties to put these issues at the top of their election priorities.
NZNO chief executive Paul Goulter said decades of poor planning, inadequate funding and “outright neglect” through various governments had led to absolute crisis regarding pay, staffing and morale through the nursing sector.
Almost any nurse will say patients are not receiving adequate care, Goulter said.
“That’s worrying for our elderly and infirm but it’s also soul-destroying for nurses. Add to that poor conditions, chronic overwork and the Government’s refusal to settle outstanding pay issues, and it’s no wonder thousands have left for Australia and thousands more are making plans to leave.”
Close to 5000 New Zealand nurses have registered to work in Australia since August. Daniels said that number did not reflect the true number actually leaving New Zealand, for other countries such as Canada, or England, “everywhere there is better pay and conditions”.
Goulter said the nursing crisis can be fixed, but the Government needs to “stop pussy-footing around”.
“We need 4000-5000 more nurses; it’s as simple as that. So we want to see everything possible being done without delay.
“We need better pay and conditions now, so nurses are valued and stop leaving; free training and other incentives for nursing students – a third of whom drop out because we make it too hard to qualify; more Māori and Pasifika nurses; and a health system that upholds Te Tiriti so people get culturally appropriate care and inequities are reduced.”
Daniels said nursing students needed the ability to earn while they learn. “They are dropping out because they can’t afford to put petrol in the car to go placements, which is nuts.”
Daniels said the rally was about every nurse, midwife and health care assistant in every part of the system. “Primary healthcare nurses have absolutely been left behind and none of us will leave a nurse behind.”
NZNO will also be launching a public petition at the rallies calling on political parties to commit to fixing the nursing crisis.
Health Minister Andrew Little has outlined how the medical show Shortland Street will encourage more people to take up nursing. Video first published August 1 2022.
“The crisis is worsening by the day but it can be fixed with commitment and courage; and we want the public’s help in sending that message to those wanting our votes in 2023.”
- Most rallies will be held between 11am and 1pm in all major centres and regions on Saturday, from Kaitāia to Invercargill.