Nurses to rally amid staffing crisis

Photo: ODT files
Photo: ODT files
Members of the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) will be rallying in Dunedin and Invercargill tomorrow, calling on the Government to increase funding to health in Budget 2024, to resolve the staffing crisis.

Southern rallies will be held at Dunedin’s Meridian Mall (9am-6pm), outside Dunedin Hospital’s main entrance (2pm-4pm), in Elles Rd adjacent to Southland Hospital (9am-11am), and at the central Invercargill intersection of Elles Rd and Tay St (2.30pm-4.30pm).

The nurses will be picketing to highlight unsafe staffing levels and speaking with the public about culturally appropriate nurse-to-patient ratios, as a way of addressing the nursing staffing crisis.

Student nurses will also be speaking about the need for better financial and cultural support, including being paid during their full-time clinical placements.

The actions by nurses, midwives, health care assistants and kaimahi hauora follow information NZNO has received from Te Whatu Ora under the Official Information Act, that has revealed the extent of the staffing problem in New Zealand.

During the year ending December 31, 2023, more than a quarter of nursing shifts were below safe staffing targets, and some wards operated below safe staffing levels nearly all of the time.

NZNO director Kerri Nuku said nursing staffing was still in extreme crisis with nurses still leaving for Australia on a regular basis, or leaving the profession altogether because their own and their patients’ wellbeing continued to be put at risk.

"Budget 2024 will be released at the end of the month and must include increased funding for health if we are to solve the staffing problem and develop a local nursing workforce that can provide high quality care that meets the physical and cultural needs of all New Zealanders."

Nurse-to-patient ratios have been implemented in Australia, California, British Columbia, Ireland and Wales, with exceptional results for nurses, patients and health budgets, she said.

NZNO members want them put in place here, enforced by legislation.

However, Ms Nuku said nurse-to-patient ratios were about more than just numbers.

"Skills mix and cultural appropriateness are also important to the staff we have on hand to provide care, and Aotearoa could be a world leader in developing a ratios system that also meets our obligations under te Tiriti.

"Our hope is that the coalition Government will listen to the voices of our country’s nurses and bravely acknowledge the continuing health system crisis with a Budget that realistically addresses our alarming rates of nurse understaffing."