A message for politicians and NZNO members from Richard and Annie.
A couple of weeks ago, the Yes We Care tour arrived at Wellington Hospital on the most horrible day of the year. It was cold, it was wet, and the rain was falling sideways. Richard and Annie are two Shout Out member leaders who were determined to deliver a health funding message despite the weather. Here is why they did it.
Richard in the rain!
Quite honestly, standing outside in the cold and windy Wellington weather was minor compared to the challenges of working in an underfunded health system. Like many nurses, I believe everyone has the ‘right to health’ – that New Zealand has a fundamental duty to provide access to healthcare that people need. That’s what we try to achieve in our work.
But, the work of nurses is being undermined by living and working conditions that don’t enable good health outcomes for an increasing number of people. And when those people get sick and come to us for help, at the moment we are not able to provide every patient with the best quality care every time. Slowly, Kiwis’ ‘right to health’ has been taken away, until we have reached a point where my colleagues are experiencing moral distress in their work. They regularly tell me that they feel despair when they are faced with preventable situations they can’t fix with their clinical skills because of a lack of health resources.
That’s why it’s time to use our political skills as well as our clinical ones. As a nurse and NZNO delegate, what really mattered to me was showing up to this event to demonstrate we can overcome our despair. We have a strategy to campaign based on hope, courage and collective action: hope for a healthier future and courage to stand up for what we aspire to achieve. We stand up for collective action, no matter how small it may seem at the time, to protect the right to health. Even in the rain!
My message to politicians is that underfunding of the health system is not about money, but is about the right thing to do for New Zealanders. Just like nurses do, each of you make choices about how much money to spend on different priorities. When you were elected, you took on responsibility for the health of the nation. We are telling you as clinicians that it’s time now to increase health funding. In fact it is overdue. When health needs aren’t met, they don’t just vanish, they get much worse, and our population is growing and ageing. Acting now is a moral imperative before the problem is even bigger.
My message to nurses is that I know what you are going through at work, because I experience it too. Sometimes it feels like you couldn’t possibly do anything more – but that’s why we need to shout out for our health now, so we can be the change we want to see.
Wellington NZNO staff, delegates, and NZNO President Grant Brookes at the Yes We Care tour action outside Wellington hospital. Annie is wearing the pink hat to the right of the picture.
My message for politicians is very simple. My colleagues and I just want to be able to do a job that gives the very best care for the people we look after. Part of that is having the right tools, safe staffing levels, and a reasonable workload. I want to be able to take my meal breaks, go home on time and not constantly revise and ration the care I am able to provide. This doesn’t seem like too much to ask, but at the moment this is not happening in our health system. Each and every nurse I know comes to work to give 100% on the job, despite the shortages. If you fund health properly, we can go back to having good work days where we go home satisfied with a job well done, and patients’ needs being met.
To my fellow NZNO nurses: As health professionals, it comes naturally to us to speak up for our patients. Every day we are our patients’ advocates. We want the best outcome for each and every one of them. So I’m not willing to stand by in silence and allow them to be disadvantaged by an underfunded health system. And I don’t think that you are willing to be silent either. If we don’t speak up for our patients, who will? That’s all that we are doing- extending our advocacy outside of the ward. Join me, because this year we have to do it together. We will win this, for us all.
The Yes We Care tour is coming to to Pukekohe tomorrow and moving north up the country until the end of March. For a full list of events that you can go to support, see www.facebook.com/pg/yeswecare.nz/events/ . We’d love to see you there.