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Healthcare workers 'welcome sweeping change' in landmark health system reforms

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Healthcare workers representing 30,000 members of the country’s largest union addressed a Parliamentary committee today calling on the Government to be bold in its health reforms.

"Right now, the system is operating off of our aloha", says DHB delegate Nia Bartley. "We’re here to overhaul the many inequities in the existing system."

The submitters from the PSA Te PÅ«kenga Here Tikanga Mahi shared personal stories of the challenges they face day-to-day in the sector. Their key priorities include seeing improved conditions for workers and better outcomes for their communities.

Delegate Keila Jensen, who is a care coordinator, shared her experience of staffing shortages.

"COVID has been a challenge for all of us, but what many New Zealanders don’t realise is that even without the pandemic, we’ve been chronically understaffed for years. Since 2020 I’ve personally done enough overtime to hire another staff member. This is on top of working a 40 hour work week."

Coordinating our healthcare system nationwide, and ensuring workers are able to be involved in the design and delivery of the system at all levels, would give the chance to ensure all healthcare workers are treated fairly, and receive fair pay and conditions, says PSA Te PÅ«kenga Here Tikanga Mahi National Secretary Kerry Davies.

"Right now, that’s just not happening - and it’s a key reason many people burn out and leave the sector."

"These reforms are an opportunity to improve the lives of people who go to work each day to keep all New Zealanders healthy and safe. This is a chance to uplift worker conditions - if we’re to retain a strong health workforce we can’t afford for any healthcare workers to lose pay or entitlements in this process."

As part of the reforms, a New Zealand Health Charter will be created with the sector’s workers to establish the culture, vision and values of the workforce. The union sees the Charter as a key way to ensure the new healthcare bodies are adequately supporting their workforce.

"One of our priority asks is to make sure this Charter applies to all healthcare workers, not just those who currently work in DHBs", says delegate Tracy O’Brien. "A lot of our public health services are delivered by community healthcare workers - for instance home support, mental health and addiction services - and it’s important to the success of the new system that we all share the same culture, vision and values across the new system."

The healthcare workers also see the reforms as an opportunity to make sure all New Zealanders receive equitable access to healthcare services.

"It shouldn’t matter where in the country you live. We all deserve to be confident we’ll have the support we need - and this is a once in a generation opportunity to address the inequities in our system.

"Our sector welcomes sweeping change."

Full copies of the union’s submissions on the Pae Ora Bill are available here:

- PSA submission

- Health Delegates Working Group submission

- Te Tira Hauora submission

- CPS Sector Committee submission

- DHB Sector Committee submission

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