An ailing health sector needs to be nursed back from a full-blown crisis by whichever political party claims the seat of power in next month’s general election, nurses say.
The New Zealand Nurses Organisation Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki Aotearoa (NZNO) has released its Election Scorecard which provides insight into how its members, who are on the frontlines of the health crisis, see the different parties on the eve of voting opening next week.
Wellington-based veteran registered nurse Helen said while nurses appreciated the progress made by Labour there was still much work to be done to reverse the damage.
"Labour has a good Health Minister, but she needs to be braver, advocate for the health workers and lead the way to better health outcomes for all".
Auckland-based registered nurse Dawn felt more work needed to be done by Labour to increase the nursing workforce. "Currently we are facing challenges with ever increasing workloads without increasing resources."
Aged care Nurse, Anita is distrustful of National saying the party did not have the best track record in health spending or supporting health workers.
"National has a terrible track record with healthcare. The pay increases offered under the last National government were lower than inflation during their term, so nurses essentially had a pay decrease."
Keelan is concerned that neither major party has a plan to fully address the large pay disparity for nurses working for Māori and Iwi providers.
"Why does National continue to ignore Pay Parity for nurses who work for Iwi and Māori providers? National took over after the 2008 elections and did nothing for Māori nurses working for their Iwi or Māori providers during that whole time they were in power".
Plans by National and Act to disestablish Te Aka Whai Ora are also of particular concern to nurses.
"Both Act and National party have said they will disestablish Te Aka Whai Ora which would neglect their responsibilities to the treaty. Māori were assured equal rights and yet have poorer health outcomes and shorter lifespans than non-Māori. To meet treaty obligations Te Aka Whai Ora really needs to stay," Anita said.
However, Keelan praised Te Pati Māori for committing to additional funding for Te Aka Whai Ora and supporting Māori nurses.
"I love the determination of the Māori Party to improve working conditions and pay for Māori nurses and health for Māori across the country."
Helen also saw Green policies as positive and the party as supportive of health workers.
"I have appreciated the support from several Green MPs who have stood beside the nurses at our rallies and spoken up in the House advocating for health workers and improving our health system.
NZNO President Anne Daniels said the responses showed common concerns but also similar hopes for improvements in the health sector.
"We have been appealing to politicians from all parties to make the current health crisis and more especially the workforce crisis a priority in the upcoming elections," she said.
"Nurses and healthcare workers’ vote. They are on the front line of a health system in crisis and are looking to see which parties have a credible plan to fix our health system for our health workers and the communities we care for. That’s why today we are releasing a health policy election scorecard to help inform nurses as they head to the ballot box - who will deliver the nurse we need?"