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Trust and truth

Anne Daniels, President
NZNO Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa

Misinformation is incorrect or misleading information. An example of this it the recent incorrect ED wait time data given to the Minister of Health to use in the media.

Hon Ayesha Verrall used the Northland ED figures to claim there was a huge improvement in the ED response times, when in fact, the opposite was true. (Te Whatu Ora admits figures used by Health Minister are ‘not accurate’ – NZ Herald).

Nurse shortages have put us in crisis mode, and decisions affecting nurse staffing vacancies could have been made on the back of the incorrect data, which has now been corrected.

Disinformation is the creation and distribution of intentionally false information, usually for political ends. I recently attended the CTU conference that focused on organising and campaigning. A misinformation expert and historian researcher Kate Hannah spoke there about the exponential rise in disinformation that originates from a small number of sources, often right wing. Reasons for people and groups to generate and spread disinformation include financial or political motivations, to increase distrust in Government, the media and experts, or just to generate discord.

Disinformation is a symptom of long-standing societal issues such as misogyny, racism, nationalism, distrust in government, and anti-intellectualism. Countering mis- and disinformation can be difficult because of the speed and scale at which digital information can be replicated and shared.
Accountability will only happen if people care enough to do more to actively resist the tide of disinformation. Kate Hannah has concerns as often “New Zealanders generally want to let things slide”.

Recently, I worked with several media outlets who had identified that the information regarding apparent similar rates of pay comparisons between New Zealand and Australian nurses were incorrect. This information had been posted on the Te Whatu Ora website.

Minister of Health Ayesha Verrall used that information and made inaccurate claims that the pay rates for nurses in New Zealand and Australia were now similar. A Kiwi nurse in Queensland was interviewed at the time and said there is nearly a $20,000 difference in base pay. He went to say the Minister had made a sad and unfair statement that was disingenuous. Kaitiaki did an in depth story to demonstrate the facts of the case.

But was it really the Health Minister’s fault? The disinformation came from a trusted source. Are they being held accountable? One must ask what vested interests were in play here? Misinforming the largest health workforce in the country, and the public can only have one outcome – a strengthening of NZNO members commitment to stand strong and act. Further, it is not okay that a Minister of Health is put in a position where an entity she should be able to trust is not doing right by her.

Going forward into election year, I expect disinformation to continue to rise particularly around our NZNO members. It will be up to every nurse, everywhere to stand up and counter disinformation, and be activists in demanding trust, truth, and accountability.

A united, collective voice needed

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Kerri Nuku, Kaiwhakahaere
NZNO, Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa

There has been lots of talk lately about nursing shortages; the number of vacancies across the country, the number of nurses leaving New Zealand, and how many are migrating to Australia. All these discussions mean nothing if we don’t have the support of a well-resourced action plan to build a sustainable work force, not just for today but for the future.

The latest proposal from National is a scheme to ensure post-graduate nurses are bonded to their work areas for five years. They say they will guarantee a payment of up to $22,500 toward students’ loans. I believe, despite the seeming burden with fishhooks, this is a positive step as it means politicians are starting to discuss the nursing crisis just like we wanted them to.

After all it was the politicians who created this crisis. It is the politicians who control the purse strings for nursing and not us. It is also up to them to determine what a workforce for tomorrow needs to look like.

I have recently returned from the United Nations Permanent Forum for Indigenous Peoples where a rights-based approach to protection of indigenous health and wellbeing topped the agenda. Judging from the political tensions as indigenous peoples recited the struggles they encounter within society’s social structures, the racism they are confronted with, and the lack of resourcing and investment together with deconstructing some of those barriers. It became clear that this could definitely also relate to nursing. 

The political power to fund is not held by nurses, therefore the will of nurses is not evident in the recognition or establishment of structures to support and enable nursing to flourish.
The National Day of Action on 15 April was intended to bring about a united, collective voice to call out to these political parties to put nursing on the political agenda with the elections looming, and to help us help our patients on the frontline.

We also called on the public to become a part of rewriting some of the failings within the system. That consumers must be part of any transformational change when they are the people who are directly impacted by any structural changes, funding changes, and any barriers to universal access for health care.

Regardless of the numbers and debate, what we need is a nursing voice that is nationally led and nationally funded with a long-term view we stand by basic principles that every nurse, everywhere deserves to be paid the same. Regardless of working within a GP practice, Primary Health Care, Aged Care or Te Whatu Ora, every nurse practitioner, registered or enrolled nurse, every midwife and every health care assistant needs to be supported and recognised as part of the wider health workforce because every one of these people contributes positively to the health outcomes of our communities.