700 attend Octagon protest over nurse staffing shortages

About 700 nurses, their families and supporters rallied in Dunedin’s Octagon on Saturday, calling on political parties to address the nurse staffing crisis by increasing the number of nurses and their pay rates.

Dunedin’s was one of many rallies held across the country by the New Zealand Nurses Organisation Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa (NZNO).

NZNO Dunedin delegate Linda Smillie was delighted with the Dunedin turnout, saying it sent a loud and clear message about the chronic understaffing in hospitals.

She said the health system was short of about 4000 nurses at the moment and it was preventing nursing staff from providing the quality of patient care that was necessary.

Hundreds of Dunedin nurses and their supporters march up Lower Stuart St towards the Octagon on...
Hundreds of Dunedin nurses and their supporters march up Lower Stuart St towards the Octagon on Saturday, to call for an end to the New Zealand nursing crisis. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
"So surgical theatres are being cancelled because of lack of staff to look after the patients - it has a flow on effect.

"We’ve got some strategies to help with the staffing issues that we want to suggest to the Government.

"We’re also launching a petition today for members of the public to show their support. We’re hoping to get about 500,000 signatures across the country within the next couple of months.

"We’ve done this in the hope we can get politicians to actually listen to us in the lead up to this year’s general election. All parties need to commit to doing something about staff at all the hospitals."

Labour MP Ingrid Leary attended the rally and said she was in full support of nurses and their call.

"I’ve got a great deal of sympathy for the nurses’ cause and I’m confident that we have the right health minister to look at this.

" [Health Minister] Ayesha Verrall has said, in relation to Dunedin Hospital, her three priorities are workforce, winter illnesses and waiting lists.

"So clearly, this is top of mind for her. We have to get it sorted.

"I would like things to move faster. I think they will move - we just need to keep the faith."

"As a Labour MP, I’m here listening and supporting, and I’ll definitely be carrying these strong messages back to my colleagues."