This past week has been a busy one. Thursday 21 May was Budget Day. It’s a day we are always on the edge of our seats, hoping for a plan for health that delivers for our members and all New Zealanders.
And the day after that we held our final meetings about the offer from DHBs for our multi-employer collective agreement. The results of those meetings did not surprise us but what we didn’t expect was the extent to which NZNO members working in DHBs rejected the DHBs’ offer. Over 82 per cent voted no.
This years’ Budget does not provide enough funding to meet the health needs of New Zealanders. In order to meet the costs of rising prices, an increasing population, an ageing population, an ageing health workforce, long overdue decent wage increases, new services etc etc, we estimate the funding allocated is at least $260 million short.
District Health Boards (DHBs) are short-changed by at least $121 million. And we know almost all of them are already struggling to manage massive deficits, meaningless health targets and the continuing push from government to “centralise” services at any cost.
How are DHBs going to deal with the likely flow-on impacts on safe staffing, workplaces that are healthy for staff and patients and quality care?
Nurses, midwives, caregivers and other health care workers are telling us they are already stretched to the limit. Some are having to sacrifice tea and lunch breaks and are working unpaid overtime just to keep up with the care they need to give to ensure needs of patients are met. Support for training and development is decreasing. Stress levels are rising and morale is low.
And it’s not only DHBs that are bearing the brunt of reduced spending. Efforts to reduce poverty related illness are not being tackled in a “joined-up” way.
Health workforce planning is proceeding at a snail’s pace. New graduate nurses are still looking for jobs that aren’t there. Older nurses are still being pressured to work night shifts.
Health workers need a fair deal to cope with the increasing demands that are being placed on them.
And this means we need to stand together to make progress in our bargaining with the DHBs for our multi-employer collective agreement.
NZNO members working in DHBs don’t feel valued. They instructed the negotiating team to retain what’s already in the MECA, secure a decent pay increase, improve access and support for professional development and advance safe staffing and healthy workplaces.
The DHBs’ offer clearly didn’t cut it. They need to do better for their largest group of workers.
We’re heading back into bargaining on Thursday with a clear mandate: the offer must be improved. Nurses can no longer continue to take up the slack for a sick health system.
We can’t do all the work here! DHBs need to take some responsibility for advocating for the funding that provides appropriately for every member of staff and every patient. New Zealanders won’t settle for anything less.