Opinion

If I was a nurse I’d be feeling pretty flat

Opinion: You know the saying “that hasn’t aged well”… Well, I usually hope that any opinion piece I write doesn’t age well. 

I hope that something I’m calling into question, or shining a light on can indeed change or be changed. 

I’m gutted to say that the thoughts I shared on our health system and our health minister haven’t changed … and my opinion piece on our drive show on the 22nd of June has indeed aged VERY WELL. 

So to prove my point, I’m going to share it again - with some minor changes of course, since A LOT can happen in a month. 

So here goes …. 

If I was a nurse I’d be feeling pretty flat. 

Not only because I was tired, overworked, and burnt out … but because our Health Minister Andrew Little tried to tell me on our drive show last month that the very organisation tasked with protecting nurses' rights has no credibility.

That was Andrew Little using gripes over pay negotiations to try and discredit the claim by the New Zealand Nurses Organisation that we’re in the middle of a health crisis. 

Our Health Minister saying they shouldn’t be believed because of things that happened during salary talks. 

It’s not the first time he's said this either, going on to be interviewed by programs and newsrooms across the country saying exactly the same thing. 

Whether you like the NZNO’s stance on pay or not... they are the voice of many of the country’s frontline nurses… and right now they’re screaming for help. 

So if our nurses can’t be believed, does that mean the rest of the health sector can’t as well? Because what we have to remember is that it’s not just nurses calling it a crisis - it’s doctors, patients, support workers and the aged care sector too. 

Many doctors are fearful of the mistakes they could make because they’re so overworked, many have thousands of patients on their roster, and many are burnt out. 

The NZ College of GPs says there are some parts of the country where there’s just one GP to every 3,500 patients when it should be one to every 1,400. 

Then there are the long wait times in our Emergency Departments and the fact that more than 900 beds in the aged care sector are closed because they don’t have the staff. 

Last week, Andrew Little was hand-delivered messages from 2,700 nurses. 

99 percent of them said the system was in crisis, or well beyond it... and 72% percent have or are making plans to leave the profession.

Many of them wrote through tears, and they are done with the Government’s insistence that this is a temporary situation caused by COVID and a cold winter. 

We tried to interview the Minister after he received the messages, but all he provided us with was this statement. 

“I appreciated the opportunity to meet frontline nurses representing their colleagues, they left me some material to read and I appreciated the constructive discussion that we had.”

Not constructive enough to finally call it what it is. 

So why won’t he? 

He told me last month that it’s just a system “under pressure”… because not every hospital is experiencing the same pressures as others. 

He also told me that he’s not interested in names and labels, but most people know that the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. 

I think it’s time to admit we’ve got one.  

This isn’t about the negotiating table, this is about people’s lives. 

If we don’t do something now, we could lose more of them.