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Health workers missing due to underfunding

Emergency nurse Nico Woodward
Photo: Emergency nurse Nico Woodward
Emergency nurse Nico Woodward is travelling New Zealand to talk with people about the risks of underfunding health services.

Mr Woodward is the face of the YesWeCare roadshow campaign, an alliance of unions and community organisations, which is travelling to 38 towns, equipped with 200 life-size cut-outs designed to showcase the number of paramedics, allied health professionals, nurses, doctors and support staff ‘missing’ due to a lack of government funding for health.

“I went into nursing to help people, but when I can’t help someone, even though I know I can, due to issues of understaffing, it’s incredibly distressing,” he stated in his campaign travel blog.

“So I’ve put my nursing career on hold to travel round the country talking to local people about the risks faced by underfunding of our health service.
“I’m excited to meet people and hear their stories, even though they will likely not be easy to hear.

"But this is part of my role as a nurse, to advocate for my patients, and I see this as an opportunity to take that advocacy to a national level.”

The Council of Trade Unions (CTU) estimates health is underfunded by more than $1.85 billion in New Zealand - the equivalent of 9,250 doctors or 22,840 nurses or 74,000 hip operations.

The roadshow campaign comes as nine in 10 health workers, including paramedics, nurses, mental health workers and support staff, revealed they feel understaffed and under-resourced.

In the campaign survey of 6,000 health workers, 90 per cent reported the health system lacked the staff and resources to deliver care to patients when needed, while 72 per cent said their workload and work pressures were not reasonable.

New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) chief executive Memo Musa said the $1.85 billion shortfall needs to be injected into the 2017 budget and increase every year.

“Our members have told us underfunding is now affecting patient safety, access to care, triggering care-rationing, health worker burn-out and straining the infrastructure,” she said in a statement.

“NZNO urge the government to make health funding, with a future vision, the number one 2017 general election priority.”

NZNO has also launched its Shout Out for Health campaign in a bid to mobilise and support nurses to tell their stories about fractures in the health system.

“We are encouraging nurses to shout out for health, and speak up about impacts on the care they provide in communities, hospitals and primary care due to health underfunding,” Ms Musa said.

The YesWeCare roadshow launched in Bluff on March 4 and will travel to places including Dunedin, Oamaru, Ashburton, Christchurch, Greymouth, Nelson, Wellington, Levin, Wairoa, Tokoroa, Tauranga, Hamilton, Auckland, Whangarei and Cape Reinga throughout March.

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Karen Keast

Karen Keast is a freelance health journalist who writes news and feature articles for HealthTimes.

Karen regularly writes for some of Australia’s leading health news websites and magazines.  In a media career spanning 20 years, Karen has worked as a senior journalist in newspapers and television. She has covered the grind of daily news and worked as a politics reporter at countless state and federal elections.

Since venturing into freelance writing five years ago, Karen has found her niche in writing about the health sector for editors, businesses and corporations.

Karen has interviewed the heads of peak health organisations in Australia and overseas, and written hundreds of news and feature articles covering the dedicated work of health professionals who tread the corridors of hospitals and health services, universities, aged care facilities and practices, day in and day out.

Follow Karen Keast on Twitter @stylemywords