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NZNO celebrates World Smokefree Day by lodging our smokefree services petition

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Today, the 31st of May is World Smokefree Day. Every year the Health Promotion Agency puts out great resources for people want to quit smoking and stay off tobacco for good. They have infographics to download and motivational facts like the one below. Not many people know that smoking makes you deaf!

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Researchers have identified though that without further big changes, New Zealand will not reach our smokefree 2025 goal, particularly for Māori and Pacific communities. That’s why NZNO was distressed when we heard last year that funding for some iwi and community smoking cessation providers was being cut, as well as for advocacy services like the Smokefree Coalition. NZNO Kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku said ““It doesn’t make any sense that on the one hand the Government supports the goal of Smokefree Aotearoa 2025, but on the other is pulling funding out of Smokefree advocacy services including the Smokefree Coalition, ASH and Smokefree Nurses. Every day we see the effects of smoking on our patients’ physical and mental health, and the social, economic and cultural wellbeing of their whanau. It’s heartbreaking.”

Nurses working to stop smoking in the community say they need advocacy and specialist services to refer patients to and reinforce their stop smoking message. Porirua Community Union’s Litia Gibson talked about the need for these services to NZNO last year in this video. “Any cut will affect all our services. Because it’s not just the services we provide, it’s the patients and the populations that we are caring for who are already in vulnerable positions.”

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NZNO decided to run a petition with Together, the digital campaigning arm of the Council of Trade Unions, to ask for more funding for these services. Today, we delivered 1823 signed names of nurses, caregivers, midwives, kaimahi hauora and their supporters to Marama Fox MP, in recognition of the longstanding work that she and her predecessors in parliament have done on ending smoking in New Zealand.

Litia and Marama had a little chat afterwards where Litia broke down the issues around referral services and increasing workload for nurses. “Without specialist services, we don’t have the time. You need to pack so much into an appointment, because with health funding where it is, community need is so great.”

Marama agreed on the need appropriate smokefree services and the future benefit this can bring to our country. “Being smokefree puts real money back in the hands of whānau. It protects our future generations, and ensures they don’t have to make the same decision to quit because they never start. It’s all about whānau.”

Marama had brought along a beautiful kete to put our petition in and present it to parliament. Litia in return swapped her red flower to put in the MP’s hair for the afternoon- ‘There, now your outfit is complete!’


We are proud that a little bit of NZNO is being delivered to parliament on World Smokefree day to support our Smokefree 2025 goal. Kia kaha koutou, thank you for supporting this mahi. Your names are now part of history.

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An open letter to New Zealand voters.

blog banner open letterPictured- NZNO members and Registered Nurses Phoenix and Michael.

 

This year, we are asking for your help.

This isn’t something people working in healthcare would normally do – it’s usually the other way around. We help you in your time of need – in your hospitals, your Plunket office, your home, your marae and in your community. We love our skilled work, and turning your worst day into a better day. When you are sick, injured or in need of support, you can turn to us for healing, comfort and safety. We help no matter who you are, where you come from, how much you earn or where you live. Knowing we can help is what drives us to work in health.

 
Right now it’s getting harder to do the work that we trained for. We want the best for everyone who comes into our care, but health underfunding means that sometimes we’re not able to give you the best. We are often short staffed, rushed, and need a little more time to give you care. We are sad sometimes because of what we couldn’t do for your tamariki, your grandparents or your neighbour. Many of you are feeling frustrated by delays in getting the healthcare you deserve and expect. We are frustrated too.

 
Together, we can fix this. If health was funded sustainably now and into the future we could improve that service for every New Zealander. We can have a health system where every patient knows that when they need care, they will see the right health professional, with the right skill, in the right place, at the right time. This is the proud tradition of our country.

 
It is election year. Who you vote for is your personal choice, but we are asking you to use your vote to help us give you and your loved ones the best care. Make sure you are enrolled to vote now, and that the people you know are enrolled . Check out which political parties are committed to increasing health funding. Pay close attention to what they say about resourcing us to give you quality care.

 
We are asking you to make health funding your first priority this election. Talk to your friends and family about voting for health. Without an increase to health funding we are all in serious trouble. With your vote, we can improve and save lives.

Yours sincerely,

NZNO Kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku, NZNO President Grant Brookes, the undersigned nurses, caregivers, midwives, healthcare assistants, kaiāwhina, and the people they care for.

You can add your name, where you’re from and message of support as a comment on the blog. Your nursing team would really appreciate it.

Authorised by Memo Musa, New Zealand Nurses Organisation,
Crowe Horwath House, 57 Willis Street, Wellington
PO Box 2128 Wellington


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Not holding my breath for Budget

HamishHi, my name is Hamish Hutchinson. I’m a registered nurse, an NZNO delegate and I work at Waitakere Hospital in Auckland.

We’re coming up to the Budget, which is when the Government prioritises its spending for the next year. Will they prioritise health? I’m not holding my breath.

The Council of Trade Unions calculated we are well over a billion dollars short for the health system just to stand still. I can’t really comprehend what a billion dollars looks like, but I can tell you what underfunding looks like to me, every day.

I’ve been working as a nurse for 5 years. I chose nursing because it’s the sort of profession where you can use your own humanity to help others. This is still why I want to be a nurse.

I work in an Emergency Department (ED), so we are used to it being busy. We have a great team that responds well in a crisis. But it’s not always trauma and lights and sirens – another part of the ED is about doing screening for family violence and asking about how things are for people in the home. When it’s busy – and it’s getting more and more busy all the time – this stuff – the social stuff, the time spent listening to people gets pushed aside. That worries me.

ED nursesWe always say that the Emergency Department is for emergencies only. I’ve lost count of the times I have heard people saying that they couldn’t get into their GP for 3-4 days or couldn’t pay for after-hours clinics or couldn’t get into a GP because they work two jobs and have kids. Inevitably they come to ED – where else will they go?

Just as an example, I saw one man who had an infected wound. He had put off seeing the GP because of cost and because he couldn’t take a sick day from work. When he finally arrived in the ED his wound had gotten really bad. Something that probably could have been managed by a GP a few days ago ended up needing surgery and a hospital stay. It was worse for the patient and it cost so much more than it needed to as well, in equipment, bed space, and staff time. This doesn’t need to happen.

Some days the Emergency Department feels like a game of musical beds. When the hospital is full it’s just one big balancing act. I’m amazed it works and I think that’s down to the tireless work of nurses and other hospital staff.  But the reality is this is not a game, this is people’s lives.

Good health is vital for a good society and if I got to make the big decisions, I would make health and wellbeing a bigger priority than it is now. Everyone needs to be able to get health care in their own communities. We need more hospital staff for sure – but keeping people out of hospital is cheaper in the long run.

ED nurse talking with patientWhat this would look like for me?  It would mean having enough time to talk to people to find out what brought them to ED and how we can stop it happening again. You can’t do that when it’s too busy, when there’s people in corridors, and it’s the really important stuff like this that falls away with underfunding and understaffing.

Other things that would make a big difference, in my opinion are:

Free GP visits for everyone and clinic hours extended to suit working families. People should be able to see a GP on the same day and have flexibility if they are workers.

Improving the ‘social determinants of health’- the things that should keep people well in the first place, like housing, welfare, education and employment. We would have more time available for the unavoidably sick if preventable causes of disease were reduced or removed.

In particular, outside of the hospital, there has to be more emergency housing, and this is an issue that’s needs to have been resolved yesterday! There’s nowhere in West Auckland to go if you are homeless, only sleeping rough or paying for a motel which might not be an option for lots of people.  Addressing the human right to safe shelter is an absolute must and would ultimately improve the health of people in hardship. If nothing is done on this issue, I will be worried for the future, because it’s bad enough now. On Thursday, I hope the Government prioritises health and the people in our communities. And that means housing, welfare, education and employment as well. They could do it if they had the will. They could fix this all if they wanted. That’s something we are all holding our breath for.

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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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Trading places, part III

Joys and Perils of Caregiving

We are re-blogging this article by Jan Logie with her kind permission.

It was a real joy and privilege to be able to do a “job swap”, organised by the New Zealand Nurses Organisation, with caregiver Dilani Perera. You can read about it here but I just want to share a personal view of it and a couple of stories that residents told me.

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I’ve never been a paid caregiver. My primary memory until this experience was as a child singing carols and visiting at the old folks homes in Invercargill (yes I was that kind of child). I can still remember the large empty room with the edges full of old people sitting and staring out from their immobile chairs. I never associated those old people with any possible future of my own but I was still a bit scared and horrified by the vulnerability and a terrible aching stasis.

So it was really wonderful to spend some time with Dilani who is so very generous, warm and loves caring for people. Her favourite part of the job is helping people with the most intimate tasks. I’m sure it’s not because those jobs are the most fun but rather because it means so much to the residents to have someone they trust.

When I went back on National Caregivers Day, one of the residents Sylvie read a poem to the caregivers. It brought a tear to my eye. I can’t remember it all but the last line was, roughly, ‘if I was to scatter roses at your feet in gratitude, I would need your help.’ When I spoke to Sylvie afterwards she reinforced this saying that she really doesn’t have the words to describe what it is like to be so dependent.

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I spoke to another resident Thomas, who had been given two days to live about a year ago but was pushing on. From our chat I learnt that he had previously been a senior public servant and was still absolutely engaged in what was happening politically in New Zealand. We had a really good chat about the state of our nation.

The whole team at Enliven, is a wonderfully multicultural team of staff originating from many continents. Thomas indeed commented on this and said how wonderful it was to live in a place where you really felt the world was getting on. I think he described it as a functional United Nations. How wonderful is that.

He read a letter of thanks to the caregivers, and then needed rescuing while trying to return to his seat as his legs stopped working. It was impressive to watch the caregiver work together to avert any accident and ensure Thomas was able to recover calmly.

My brain resists truly understanding what it must be like to have lived a full life having grown into yourself and then find yourself so completely dependent on strangers. Kindness surely has never been more important. If your caregiver is inattentive or grumpy, you could end up physically hurt or maybe even worse, stuck in a place of complete misery.

These caregivers are paid the bare minimum wage and it would be very easy for them to be grumpy and resentful. It is a testament to the good of people that after 16 years Dilani and others are still fully engaged and focused on caring for their “extended family”. They bloody well deserve to be paid and valued a whole lot more than they are now.


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Trading places, part II

 

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Yesterday I went to Parliament with a couple of lovely colleagues and a couple of awesome caregiver delegates.

We had a plan: to share our stories with a group of MPs, to hear about an MP’s work life and to get a commitment from them to help us achieve equal pay.

Janine works at a Harbourview in Papakowhai. She’s got 17 years’ experience as a caregiver and she earns $17 an hour. Janine joked about that being a dollar a year – we all laughed with her – but it’s actually not that funny. I guess when you’re being paid so little, black humour is a tool to get you through the week.

Dilani works at Cashmere Home in Johnsonville. Her shift yesterday started at 5am. By the time we got to Parliament at 12.30pm she was pretty tired. Dilani tells it like it is, when we asked her what she thought MPs actually did, she cracked up. “They sit in flash seats and yell at each other!” Later on we went to “Question Time” and discovered she was exactly right – for that bit of their job, at least.

Going to Parliament and visiting members of Parliament is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many New Zealanders and a really big deal. Neither Dilani nor Janine were phased in the least; they both knew what they wanted to say to MPs and what they wanted to know. They were confident in themselves and able to talk eloquently about both their working lives as caregivers and issues in the aged care sector generally.

We went through security (just like at an airport) and waited for our Labour Party host on big leather couches in the Beehive. Matt from Kris Faafoi’s office met us and escorted us through to Parliament House and up the antique lift to the 3rd floor.

We did the usual hand-shaking, smiling and shuffling around – Who should sit where? What’s the best angle for taking photos? Yes, I’d love a glass of water, thanks.

We ended up with Janine and Dilani sitting on either side of MP David Clark, which was perfect. David, Dilani and Janine chatted away like they’d known each other for years.

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Another couple of MPs, Kris Faafoi and Jenny Salesi raced back from their respective Select Committee duties and joined us soon after that.

The conversation ranged widely. From comparing pay and conditions of the two different roles to traversing issues around training, especially the lack of training for the kind of palliative care that happens much more often now in residential aged care.

As we left the office to go to our next appointment in Bowen House Deilani and Janine commented on the authenticity of the meeting. They felt like something really meaningful had happened in the room. I guess they noticed because it wasn’t what they had expected. We were all, MPs and caregivers alike, able to be ourselves, warm and human. I believe that when we take the time to “get” each other, that’s how change and progress happens.

 

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Jessie from Jan Logie’s office came to meet us at the leather couches to take us through the Beehive, underneath the street and then back up into Bowen House. I suppose if you work there you get used to it all but for us it was an eye-opener! The art! The corridors! The people walking swiftly and purposefully!

The Green’s office didn’t seem to have that frantic vibe – we were greeted warmly by three women MPs, who had arranged a lovely kai for us.

Dilani and Jan had already made a connection earlier in the week and it showed. They picked up their conversation where they’d left off and Dilani invited Jan to their Caregiver Week celebration at Cashmere.

MP Catherine Delahunty spoke movingly of the difference caregivers had made to her family as they went through the long farewell to a loved one with dementia. She said, “We didn’t need those skills because you have them. You should be paid properly for them.” She also said, “Bankers, no! Caregivers, yes!” Her statement clearly resonated with the caregivers.

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MP Julie Anne Genter shared her diary with us and I think we were all surprised at how jam-packed an ordinary MPs day is. Jenn asked Janine and Dilani afterwards whether they would want an MP’s job. It took less than a quarter of a second for them both to exclaim, “NO WAY!” Dilani said she loves being a caregiver, and she’d love to be paid fairly as well.

At ten to two the bells started ringing and the MPs jumped up, wished us a swift but warm farewell and departed for the House. They called, “Stay and finish the food!” So we did. And had a coffee and a debrief.

We all had smiles on our faces, and ready laughter. Making a difference doesn’t need to be dreary and formal. We made a difference yesterday and it was awesome!

We’re part of a movement for equality and we were all proud to add our contribution yesterday. When Dan dropped us back at work I really wanted to give everyone a hug (but I didn’t, because I’m not that kind of person).
By Liz Robinson, NZNO Communications Adviser.


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Trading places, part I

Caregiver’s week happens every year on the third week of March. It was started by members in NZNO working with older people, to celebrate the work of caregivers, their importance in the lives of families, and to the whole nursing team.

This year, caregivers’ work is in the news, as the Government negotiates with the unions and employers on a settlement for caregivers’ pay, after Kristine Bartlett’s equal pay win in court. We know that caregiver’s work is undervalued- but how well do the people making decisions really understand what carers do? MPs might get paid a lot more than our members, but if they had to do carer’s jobs, would they shape up? We decided to find out.

We invited all the parties with Wellington-based MPs to send an MP along to a real aged care facility, and spend a couple of hours ‘trading places’ with a caregiver. The Labour Party and the Greens agreed to give it a go. Unfortunately Kris Faafoi was unwell on the day, so Jan Logie was the extra pair of hands for lunch service at Cashmere home in Johnsonville.

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The atmosphere at Cashmere home was lovely and calm. The residents in the lunchroom were happy, relaxed, and well attended by all the staff, despite their very different needs. After Jan was done serving, she sat for lunch with a table of chatty residents. Margaret was visiting her husband John, just like she has every day since his stroke. “He never came home from the hospital. He went straight into care…. I wouldn’t have been able to cope at home.” John and Margaret lived a very full life and are still interested in current affairs like caregiver pay and the union movement. The other night they went out, with the help of staff, to a classical concert. They chose Cashmere because of the positive feel, only possible because of the constant attention of the carers. Their care for John has allowed Margaret to not worry so much and keep her own independence.

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After lunch, Jan helped clean up, and move resident Therese from the lunchroom to the lounge in her chair. Therese likes to be over by the window and the two brightly coloured pet birds. Jan struggled to steer the big armchair by herself, and nearly got caught on a doorframe! Luckily Therese didn’t mind, and NZNO delegate Dilani came to the rescue. Jan joked that it would be her exercise for the day! She spent the whole time she was helping talking and listening intently to residents, and apart from the one break at lunch, she was walking around non-stop.

Jan and Dilani sat down afterwards for a chat about how it all went.

 

Next edition- The caregivers go to parliament, and we find out what they think about MPs.

By NZNO Campaigns Adviser, Jenn Lawless.