NZNO's Blog


No nursing vacancies?

no vacanciesIn November 2013 Health Workforce New Zealand (HWNZ) briefed the Parliamentary Health Select Committee on nursing and medical workforce issues in New Zealand.

We’ve read the report of the Committee (you can find it here ) and have come to the conclusion that HWNZ must be telling the members of parliament what they think they want to hear. It makes no sense to us at all.

Here’s what the Health Select Committee report says about nursing:

“HWNZ told us that at present there are no nursing vacancies, and district health boards are employing newly qualified nurses on a casual basis rather than in graduate positions.However, the average age of nurses is 50, and many are expected to leave nursing when the economy moves out of recession. This will result in vacancies, and HWNZ is working to ensure an adequate, sustainable nursing workforce over the next decade. For example, a “nursing pipeline working group” is being established to align nursing student numbers with employment opportunities.”

HWNZ’s assertion that “there are no nursing vacancies” is patently untrue. NZNO members tell us that they are constantly working under stress, that nurses on leave are not replaced and that vacancies are taking months to fill or are not being filled at all. All these factors create constant churn in the workforce, with the nursing team working short-staffed and under pressure. There is no fat in the system and patient safety and quality care is being compromised as a result.

Why is HWNZ pulling the wool over the Parliamentarian’s eyes? We know, and they do too, that good policy and legislation can only happen when select committees receive free, frank and honest advice. The Health Select Committee has said they will “monitor the situation with interest” – if they knew the truth they would be taking urgent action.

NZNO is doing what we can; lobbying, researching, planning, listening to members and finding solutions to the crisis in the nursing workforce. What we need now is for HWNZ to get on board and do the job they are supposed to do – engage, listen, plan, act.