Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern a week out from the Budget signing NZNO’s open letter calling for sustainable health funding is a heartening ‘signal’, says the nurses’ union.
Ardern unexpectedly joined finance and health ministers Grant Robertson and Dr David Clark in meeting a New Zealand Nurses Organisation delegation outside Parliament yesterday.
NZNO’s district health board nurses, midwives and healthcare assistant members are currently voting on whether to strike in July while at the same time waiting to see whether an independent panel, prompted by Ardern, will come with a solution to the current impasse between the NZNO and the 20 DHBs over pay and safe staffing demands.
The NZNO delegation sent an invite to Robertson to meet with them yesterday as the culmination of its Shout Out for Health campaign for sustainable health funding started last year and its current #healthneedsnursing push for a resolution to the DHB/NZNO pay talks impasse.
An NZNO spokesperson said the fact that both Robertson and Clark agreed to meet them just a week out from the Budget was viewed as a sign that the Government was listening to nurses’ concerns. That the Prime Minister had also chosen to come and greet them – and was ready to sign the NZNO’s Open Letter – was also seen as a ‘strong signal’.
Clark told Nursing Review in a statement that he was happy to meet with the NZNO representatives and for nurses to share their concerns about the impact of health underfunding. “Nurses are a vital part of our health workforce and they do an amazing job. I know they have felt under-valued in recent years.”
He said the Government was committed to a strong public health service and making sure it had sustainable funding for nurses and other health workers was a “key part of that.” Asked whether the meeting was a “strong signal” to nurses that the Budget would address NZNO’s funding and pay impasse concerns, he said he couldn’t talk about the upcoming Budget or the ongoing pay negotiations “at this stage”.
During the meeting NZNO delegates – nurse Erin Kennedy and midwife Sarah Gilbertson – presented a box of 7000 letters from the public and nurses gathered during the Shout Out Campaign along with a copy of the In Their Own Words health worker stories gathered during the campaign. Pens engraved with “health needs nursing” were also given to the two ministers to help them put the “finishing touches” to the Budget.