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A shot across the bow

Anne, Daniels, President
Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa NZNO

Metaphorically our NZNO national Day of Action was “a shot across the bow”. It was an action to warn our Government and nurse employers that if we (NZNO members) continue to be ignored, they can expect stronger, more direct action.

Why? As many who spoke at any one of the 20 rallies around the country, said, we can no longer wait. Our patients cannot wait and suffer, and we can no longer stand by and let that suffering continue. Their pain is our pain.

15 April 2023 was a historic day for NZNO. It was the first time, since the formation of our union, that members from every sector, stood together in solidarity, to demand one action – safe staffing.

In Wellington, we were led out by members of Te Poari and Te Runanga, walking proudly towards Parliament (and our various destinations throughout the country). I believe there would have been many silent tears shed.

For me, when members of the public stopped in their tracks and started clapping, filming, joining in, I knew we had the public with us in solidly with us. As a female-dominated profession, we have come a long way from the time of the Suffragettes, but we still have a long way to go.  Change does not come from those who hold the reins of power, it comes from you, our members and those who support us.

Every NZNO member everywhere must act. This is our future, our time. We will only succeed if we all challenge ourselves to be part of the change that we need to see. The rallies were successful as we gained strong and prioritised media attention.

However, less that 4 percent of our members attended these rallies. Why were the other 96 percent not there? Some were working. A few were in places where no rally was being held, but the vast majority of our members were not there. As a nurse, mother, grandmother (with grandchildren living with me), an ED nurse, and as an NZNO activist since the 1990s, I have always acted when change is needed. I have not left it to someone else and I have never acted alone. We need everyone. This is a challenge to all our members to “Maranga Mai!”, Rise Up and Act!

On Saturday, I laid down another a challenge to all political parties and individual Ministers to publicly commit the fixes of Maranga Mai! The media, in turn, asked each political party if they would do just that. All parties who responded said that their health policy leading into the election had not been finalised. What an opportunity for us!

Get together, go see your local politician and tell them why our fixes need to happen NOW. Then, challenge them to commit publicly. Let them know, that we won’t stop, until we get what we need and the nation needs – a public health system that is fit for purpose, safe to work in, and that retains and recruits the right number of skilled nurse/midwife/HCA/kaiāwhina/allied health workers that we need to provide the best of care. You can do this. We can do this. We must do this, NOW.

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Our health system needs a shake-up

Kerri Nuku, Kaewhakahaere
Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa NZNO

The health system is not meeting the needs of New Zealanders, especially Māori, and it’s also NOT meeting the needs of those who work within it. So what is the Government going to do to ensure the right resource goes to the frontline and not into endless restructures?

The response from the Prime Minister to this question was both respectful and insightful with an understanding of pressures across the system, but not a guarantee of resources to the frontline.

The extraordinary challenges across health both nationally and internationally have been unprecedented. The impact of Covid was always going to take years to recover from, but wave upon wave of challenges have continued to erode the energy and passion of the entire health workforce. Nurses voluntarily offered to be deployed to different regions to help spread the load in crisis areas during the latest flood events from Cyclone Gabrielle, but these short-term solutions are not going to be effective in the long-term.

Latest information from an Australian recruiting agency suggests that more than 5000 New Zealand nurses have registered with the Australian regulatory body and are contemplating working across the ditch. Even if half of this number were to leave, with the huge vacancies and reports of staff shortages on each shift, this would have a devastating impact on the health workforce left behind.

This week Rob Campbell, the former chairman of the Te Whatu Ora Board, has come out and supported the opportunity for change through the health reforms. We at NZNO were all hoping this was an opportunity to be brave and bold and develop models of care with the patient at the centre of the care and a responsive and well-resourced workforce. Like many I was sceptical about a reshuffling of the senior executive deck chairs, moving from being DHB executives on the 30 June to Te Whatu Ora on 1 July. Were we going to be able to see transformation rethink bold enough to change deeply entrenched practices?

Campbell also said that workers of the “frontline” need to be part of workforce planning, and we have echoed the same thing for years. You cannot develop a workforce plan without frontline workers, not just doctors or nurses but also kaimahi, health care assistance and allied health.

The National Day of Action is important to expose the health system that is broken and not fit for purpose. We will continue to bleed staff if we don’t protect and support staff with the resources they need to do their job. This is an action for all nurses everywhere to come together and send a message of solidarity. We need to be advocates for our communities who deserve to have a quality health care system that is free from discrimination, and is affordable, accessible, and culturally safe health care.

Naku te rourou nau te rourou ka ora ai te iwi (With your basket and my basket the people will live)