Opinion

Tova O'Brien: 'Our crisis is now and our Prime Minister is too proud to admit it'

OPINION

Jacinda Ardern has lost touch with her voters, lost touch with the country, lost touch with the healthcare sector and, actually, has lost touch with herself. 

This was a leader - a once great leader - who purported to model her leadership on kindness, on empathy. She told us she was a different kind of politician.

Frankly, I never really bought into it but I did respect her and I did think Jacinda Ardern was a superb leader through the aftermath of March 15, Whakaari and the early stages of a global pandemic. We were lucky to have her in crisis. 

If we needed an example of how far she has strayed from that brand of leadership, we needn’t look any further than a single comment she made in an interview with my friend Ryan Bridge this week. 

As our listeners will be aware, we have been campaigning endlessly to have nurses added to the immigration priority green list. 

Last week we gave a microphone to all the voices of the healthcare sector who have also been calling for this - nurses, aged care, plunket, family planning, surgeons, Health NZ, Procare, community health - we heard from them all. 

All the voices the Prime Minister and Government are refusing to listen to. 

We’ve debunked all the so-called evidence the Government says it has that nurses will leave the profession if they get residency, we’ve debunked all the so-called advice the Government received from the sector. 

And yet the Government’s still insisting migrant nurses have to wait two years to get residency when all their doctors, surgeons, and anaesthetist colleagues can get it immediately. 

And that brings me to the offending comment. Five seconds of Jacinda Ardern - veil lifted - politically ruthless, uncaring and out of touch. 

"If people think that barrier’s too high it suggests they don’t want to be a nurse in New Zealand."

Um… wtf... What the actual… 

Seriously? Nurses want to come here, they want to work but they also want stability for themselves and their families, they want rights, they want security and certainty. The kinds of things they’d get immediately in Australia for example because Australia is offering immediate residency.

Don’t just take my word for it. Here’s a nurse we spoke to who trained here in NZ, she’s been living here 10 years, she’s desperate to stay and keep doing the dream job she’s doing in her dream country but because she has to wait two more years to get residency she’s planning to move to Australia or Canada. 

"I literally cried. I cried and cried and cried. I was working and then I was thinking oh, my skills and my work is not even recognised here and I'm not even welcome here."

That same nurse heard the Prime Minister’s comment. In fact, she sent it to me. 

When I asked what she thought. She replied "not nice. I give up now. They don’t even listen to what we have been saying."

And do you know what, even if this retention myth was true - which it is not - but let’s be generous for a second and hypothesise, even if these nurses did come to New Zealand, got residency then bailed on their jobs after a couple of years, who cares?

We are so desperate for nurses, to have them in the country, in the job, for even a couple of years - we’ll take it.

Our crisis is now. 

And our Prime Minister is too proud to admit it. 

Pride can’t care for our elderly like that aged care nurse who’s leaving us for Australia can.