WellSouth head pleading pay parity for primary care nurses

Wellsouth chairman Doug Hill has made an ardent plea for pay parity between primary care and hospital nurses.

Just over a year ago primary care nurses, who are paid about 10% less than DHB-employed hospital nurses, went on strike over the still unresolved issue.

At the primary health organisation’s annual general meeting in Dunedin yesterday Dr Hill praised primary nurses for having been on the front line of the Covid-19 response, delivering both testing and vaccinations.

‘‘Nurses are not talked about enough but they are the people donning the PPE, doing the swabbing and doing the vaccinations, stuff that two or three years ago was not happening in the nursing workforce.

‘‘The fact that we don’t have pay parity between primary and secondary care nurses is an absolute travesty and we will do all we can to address that at our level.’’

WellSouth had had a challenging year, delivering business as usual as well as having to organise pop-up Covid-19 services at a moment’s notice, Dr Hill said.

‘‘We have done an amazing number of swabs and 18 months ago we virtually didn’t know how to do a swab ... our primary care team is an amazing group of people and they have done an amazing job at keeping our country safe.

‘‘The majority of people with Covid don’t get a test or a vaccination or treatment in a hospital service, it happens through primary care, and we have led the country in vaccinations.’’

WellSouth recorded a substantial deficit last year, a $967,000 loss which had been budgeted for Dr Hill said.

The ongoing review of the health system offered promise of improvements for consumers but meant headwinds ahead for WellSouth Dr Hill said.

‘‘In theory it is a fantastic goal and we should support it 100% ... we are realising that organisations such as ours are being given the opportunity to lead primary care, which will be the main focus of the health system, in partnership with iwi, and it is critical that we learn how to do that better and we must become better at being in partnership.’’

Chief executive Andrew Swanson-Dobbs said highlights of the year included a substantial renovation of WellSouth’s office space, the introduction of an access and choice programme to expand regional healthcare, and the strides taken forward by the organisation’s CLIC (client led integrated care) programme to better manage chronic conditions.

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