Recommended NZ | Guide to Money | Gimme: Competitions - Giveaways

Nurse staffing crisis looming for primary health - NZNO

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) says a crisis is looming in the Primary Health Care Sector (general practices and accident and medical centres) if funding is not increased to allow practice and registered nurse salaries to match those of district health board (DHB) nurses.

NZNO has been negotiating the Primary Health Care Multi Collective Agreement (PHC MECA), which covers more than 3400 nurses, medical receptionists and administrators in more than 500 New Zealand general practices and accident and medical centres. But NZNO Industrial Advisor Chris Wilson says an acceptable offer for members has not been possible so far because of the funding shortfall.

Early in 2020 NZNO surveyed its members working in these workplaces and 70 percent of respondents said they were considering leaving the sector because of higher pay elsewhere - such as at services run by DHBs. Many nurse leaders who responded said they are struggling to recruit new nurses or keep the ones they already have.

Ms Wilson says a serious drop in practice and registered nurses is inevitable unless things change, and this will make health care much harder to access for people in Aotearoa New Zealand.

"Nurses at these workplaces provide services such as vaccinations, patient care programmes and triage at point of entry. They also give medical or health advice, which often reduces hospital admissions. Fewer nurses will mean these services become less available or more expensive, and this will have consequences for health and put extra demands on the health budget."

Sector funding comes through the Vote Health Budget and is allocated to general practices and other services via the DHBs and primary health organisations (PHOs).

Ms Wilson says that while DHBs are paying their own nurses at the higher rates negotiated in the DHB/NZNO MECA, they are not passing on enough funding to ensure these primary health care nurses are paid the same. She says primary health nursing is just as complex as nursing in DHBs, yet it is being significantly undervalued by this obvious pay parity issue.

"As of May this year an experienced nurse covered by the PHC MECA will be paid 10 percent less than an experienced nurse in a DHB. That’s a huge difference and our survey respondents say this has significant impacts for their lives, including working extra shifts to make ends meet, foregoing holidays and family time, and not being able to afford a house."

She said NZNO members are concerned about what this means for their communities and they want them to know of the impending issue. They will be asking funding decision makers to recognise the value of these primary health care nurses by addressing the salary issue. They are hopeful funders will acknowledge the value of this investment in community health when NZNO returns to bargaining next week.

"The Government and the DHBs need to understand that underfunding the Primary Health Care Sector is just robbing Peter to pay Paul. Not funding services that keep people well just costs everybody more in the long run, and increases suffering and inequities," Ms Wilson said.

All articles and comments on Voxy.co.nz have been submitted by our community of users. Please notify us if you believe an item on this site breaches our community guidelines.