Kerri Nuku, Kaiwhakahaere,
Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa NZNO
It’s difficult to know where to start when writing this blog because there is just so much happening keeping us on the edge of our seats. Internationally we have held our breath as we have watched political tensions escalate over land, power and possessions amid the backdrop of the increasing humanitarian crises and increasing numbers of refugees and displaced communities due to war, famine, natural disasters and climate change.
Back home, the increasing cost of living, exorbitant rent prices, increasing rates and mortgage inflationary costs for those lucky enough to afford the deposit for a house, adds to our burden of economic hardship. The problem with this hardship is that these features are increasingly common among us working class folk. For many of my friends and whanau, what once may have been left over from their salary or wages once all the bills are paid is no longer there. “It’s hard to stretch the purse strings any more …that broke long ago.”
As the political tensions start to warm up towards the next elections, power, politics, and money and their order of arrangement will be what makes the difference for many of us. There are already clear signs that Māori will again become political fodder, through divisive action intent on winning votes at the cost of commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
Without even trying to address the obvious issues in the health sector let alone the issues for nurses and all health care workers and all working-class people, I can’t help but wonder what the future for the nursing profession will look like.
Over the years and as early as the 1889 women have been calling for better pay and working conditions. We have well documented evidence of the ignorance and inaction of governments over the centuries to take affirmative action to do anything meaningful and sustainable to ensure working conditions and pay for nurses and health care workers.
Our Pay Equity celebrations earlier this year have been short-lived as we find ourselves in Employment Court seeking a determination and direction. Again, we are reminded that we don’t hold power. While Pay Equity may have been an attempt to address gender discrimination, it has not gone far enough to change attitudes, behaviour and practice. As a predominantly female workforce we still have some way to go to make sustained change. Mindful of course that these rates are not available to nurses outside of Te Whatu Ora services.
COVID-19 exposed an already fragile health system, eroded by successive governments lack of investment in terms of facility appropriateness, models of care, human resources for health, working conditions and responsiveness to the community in which we serve. These cracks were laid bare due to the sheer size, scale and speed of the pandemic on our system health system which could not withstand the sustained impact.
We continue to raise the relenting issues of working conditions and pay, especially in response to the “impact of COVID”, however now given the nursing workforce shortage nationally and internationally we will need to consider the development of our workforce. At the latest Manatu Hauora Hui, the gathering of health care workers, was an initial discuss to collectively look at work a future workforce may look like, an opportunity to start for redesigning considering newly established Te Whatu Ora and Te Aka Whai Ora and stand up of the Iwi Māori Partnership Boards. It looks to advance opportunities for healthcare workers, Kaimahi and Kai awhina workforce, potential changes to learning opportunities and credentialing, nursing council is currently working on changes to the Enrolled Nurses Scope and design, but until these groups are involved in any consultation of about them – we will continue to be done too.
I hear constantly our workforce is tired, burnt-out, frustrated and angry, but what we do together will determine what happens tomorrow.