Nursing morale sitting at all time low

Former AAU nurse manager Margaret Anderson, Age Concern Ashburton president Jan McClelland and rally MC Bernard Egan.
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Nurses, health care assistants and supporters have gathered in Ashburton to voice their concerns over a growing nursing crisis.

Age Concern Ashburton president – and former director of nursing – Jan McClelland spoke about the needs of an ageing community, and former AAU nurse manager Margaret Anderson about the broken healthcare system. Bernard Egan was MC.

It was one of 19 Maranga Mai! Rise Up! rallies organised by the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) nationwide on the same day and saw the official launch of a petition calling on political parties to commit to fixing the nursing crisis.

Margaret, who retired last year, said ‘‘the whole healthcare system in New Zealand is a total mess.’’

‘‘What’s happening is the lack of support at the coalface for those who do the nursing work. If it wasn’t for the nurses there would be no health system. We need nurses to make it run.

‘‘I just think the nurses have been pushed aside for quite a number of years and I think it’s time the Government took notice and stood up and supported those who are doing such as huge job.’’

United voice … Healthcare assistants, from left, Kandy Larter and Andrea Fechney, with patient advocate Carol Bryan, and registered nurse Cathy Wright at the nurses rally in the Ashburton Domain.

Jan said Aged Concern services locally and nationally helped people live well for longer, as well as have support, respect and social connections.

‘‘People age differently and all have different needs,’’ she said.

However, with the demographic of people aged 65 years and over nationwide forecast to reach 1.2million by 2034 there was concern for the future of healthcare.

‘‘We recognise the impact of this (nursing crisis) on our health services, on our hospital admissions, access to timings of affordable care, and that’s not happening, and obviously, why we are here today, on workforce sustainability.

‘‘I see Age Concern very much in parallel partnership with our health services here, we’re all dependent on each other.’’

Jan McClelland says an ageing population and quality healthcare rely on each other.

Bernard said the shortage of nurses, and getting them the recognition and fair pay they deserved, needed to be addressed.

‘‘It is a crisis and I believe, and I’m sure you all do too, it’s time for it to be recognised … the absolutely essential role of nurses in our community.

‘‘The care and safety of patients, without nurses where would we be? ‘‘Without a healthy population, how could we ever produce anything to keep the country going?

‘‘Honestly it’s obvious to me, and I’m not in the health system, without nurses hospitals could not operate.

‘‘I absolutely believe that without our nurses we are up the creek without a paddle to be honest. We just cannot do without nurses.’’

Rally supporters listening to speakers.

Ashburton nurse and NZNO delegate Cathy Wright said she hoped the rally would make the lives of nurses better and help boost morale.

‘‘Having been a long serving experienced registered nurse working for around 30 years at our hospital I can vouch that nursing morale is at an all time low,’’ she said.

‘‘I have seen multiple colleagues leave due to stress and feel I have not much reserve left.

‘‘We have no optimism that we will ever be recognised as a valued workforce,’’ she said.

Rally MC Bernard Egan looks over the petition launched during the nationwide nurses rally.

NZNO chief executive Paul Goulter said the petition was a chance for the public to express their concerns for the wellbeing of nurses and the future of our health system.

‘‘So much has been asked of nurses, and they have delivered like the courageous and professional workforce they are, right across the health sector,’’ he said.

‘‘But decades of poor planning, inadequate funding and outright neglect across successive governments have led us to a time of absolute crisis in terms of pay, staffing resources and morale across the nursing sector.’’

He said 4000-5000 more nurses were needed; ‘‘it’s as simple as that. So, we want to see everything possible being done to recruit them without delay, and for all politicians to get behind this with their support.’’