No plan to address critical health workforce crisis

The Government is more focused on shuffling deckchairs than the critical health workforce shortage all DHBs are facing, National’s Associate Health spokesperson Simon Watts says.

“New Zealand has a growing workforce shortage in our health system, some estimate it to be about 3500 workers across DHBs alone. As a result, DHBs are pushing back elective surgeries due to a lack of theatre nurses and shutting down birthing units due to midwife shortages.

“When questioned about what his Government is doing to fix this serious issue, Health Minister Andrew Little wasn’t able to point to a single policy aimed at increasing the supply of critical health workers.

“The Minister was quick to talk up the Government’s $486 million health restructure but couldn’t guarantee it would deliver a single new doctor or nurse.

“Labour’s health priorities are backwards.

“It’s pouring money down the drain of bureaucracy and restructuring instead of focusing on improving health outcomes and retaining the workers we have.

“It’s not clear how New Zealand’s COVID-19 vaccination rollout, already the second slowest in the OECD, will meet Labour’s promise of offering a vaccine to every New Zealander by the end of the year while there aren’t even enough nurses to maintain business as usual.

“If the Government keeps ignoring the issues our health workers are facing and doesn’t come up with a solution quickly, there will be nothing stopping those critical workers from seeking opportunities overseas and leaving the sector.”