NZNO's Blog

What we want for health

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The Government’s 2016 Budget will be announced in a couple of weeks so we thought we’d set out now what NZNO wants for health. Here’s hoping that is what the Government delivers.

What we want is a health system where everybody can access the health care they need, where and when they need it.

It’s not an outrageous ask, and we’ve never met anyone who disagrees. So, let’s unpick it and see what lies beneath the words.

  • We want a health system that is funded to provide equitable and universal health care.
  • We need the right people to make it happen; nurses, doctors, kaimahi hauora, kaiāwhina, administrators, cooks, cleaners and clinical leaders.
  • Those people must be trained and paid appropriately and be provided with safe work environments.

Last years’ Budget does not provide enough funding to meet the health needs of New Zealanders. Nor did the Budget the year before, or the year before that… In fact economist Bill Rosenberg estimated last year that the funding allocated for health was at least $260 million short. This year will be worse. Rosenberg says that in the eight months to February 2016, District Health Boards were already $27.9 million in deficit.

Funding for the primary health services we so desperately need are being squeezed and cut and services are closing. It just doesn’t make sense – primary care is the way to make our vision for a healthy New Zealand happen. Attacking small services as they begin to make headway into our communities is completely counter-intuitive.

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The Minister of Health is famous for saying “We must live within our means” – implying that health funding is a finite pool. It’s not. This Government could prioritise health if it wanted to.

The Government could say, for example, it’s worth spending more on health for the next 10 years until the massive benefits of focusing on primary care start showing in the system. It could say, more spending now means spending less in future.

If there was a plan, we would know how many nurses to train and we’d be able to support and mentor them after graduation appropriately.

It would be recognised that short term “savings” often don’t yield long term rewards, for people or for budgets.

Nurses, midwives, caregivers and other health care workers tell us they are stretched to the limit. Some are having to sacrifice tea and lunch breaks and working unpaid overtime just to keep up with the care they need to give to ensure needs of patients are met. Support for training and development is decreasing. Stress levels are rising and morale is low.

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A healthy health system would train and employ the right number and skill mix of staff so that people aren’t burning out and/or making mistakes and/or rationing care.

So, that’s what we want in the Budget. New Zealanders deserve it and, as the largest health workforce, we expect to be heard. We are putting it out there that we will fight for it, for all New Zealanders.

A healthy health system should be a top priority for any Government. We want a health system where everybody can access the health care they need, where and when they need it.

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