District health boards are “very aware” of the daily pressure nurses are under but also have to “live within the reality” of health funding constraints, says DHB spokesperson Ashley Bloomfield.
He was speaking in the wake of the New Zealand Nurses Organisation confirming that frustrated nurses had voted to reject the 20 DHBs latest pay offer to the more than 27,000 nurses, midwives and health care assistants covered by the DHB NZNO collective agreement.
Industrial action could now be on the cards – but not for at least eight weeks as national NZNO delegates are not meeting to discuss bargaining strategies, including national strikes, until April 18.
Bloomfield said nurses were “highly respected and essential members of the health team and we don’t want them thinking they have to take industrial action to be heard. He said obviously it was disappointed that NZNO members have rejected its latest pay offer but would be asking for an urgent meeting with NZNO to find a way forward.
Frustrated nurses have taken to social media to express frustration about not only the 2 per cent per annum pay increase but also current working conditions. Including the very slow implementation of safe staffing tools that should ensure all wards have enough nursing and health care assistant staff to give safe and quality care for patients.
“We appreciate nurses see these negotiations as a chance to address some important issues for them. DHBs acknowledge these pressing issues and, while we can’t address them all at once, we want to give nurses confidence there is a clear pathway to addressing them.”
But he added that DHBS had to “live within the reality of the funding constraints on everyone in health.”
“DHBs are constantly challenged to deliver more and better care and grow a workforce to meet the demands of an aging population with increasingly complex conditions and chronic illnesses,” said Bloomfield. “Nurses are critical to that and we are committed to finding a solution that recognises and starts to address their concerns.”
It is understood that DHBs were planning to meet this week to discuss a national contingency plan if nurses voted ‘no’ and went on to take industrial action.
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