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Asia Minute: Many New Zealand nurses are angry on International Nurses Day

Some hospitals are facing a vicious cycle as nurses leave their staff jobs to make more money at other hospitals as traveling nurses. Training nurses in critical-care skills has become a fraught gamble, says Jonathan Emling, a nurse and the ECMO director at Ascension Saint Thomas in Nashville: "We will train these people, and then six months later they will be gone and traveling."
Blake Farmer/WPLN News

Thursday is International Nurses Day — and in the United States, it’s still National Nurses week. The work of nurses throughout the pandemic has been highlighted around the world — but they continue to face challenges in many places.

New Zealand has a nursing problem.

Part of it is supply, part of it is pay and working conditions. The New Zealand Nurses Organization says none of it is particularly new.

The union group released a statement Wednesday, saying “decades of poor planning, inadequate funding and outright neglect have led us to a time of absolute crisis in terms of pay, staffing resources and morale across the nursing sector.”

The 55,000-member organization is kicking off a campaign to win political support and financial resources from government leaders in New Zealand.

The union seemed to reach an agreement on compensation with district health boards last month, but the settlement has been complicated by a dispute over back pay.

The focus of the complaint, which has been in negotiations for four years, was a disparity in pay with other equivalent professions — mainly because most nurses are women.

The question of back pay will now go to the federal government’s Employment Relations Authority for a decision.

The new campaign calls for more nurses within the national health system, as well as an expansion of nurses’ training — and the inclusion of more Maori and Pacific Islander nurses both in training and in employment.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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