Call for action from frontline nurses

Sue Boyce, Pare Nikora, Te Hura Marks, Shannyn Taff and Tira Wardlaw-Ruru share a message from health care workers across Waiariki and Tairawhiti for pay equity in health care. Photo: Brayden Lindsay.

Eastern Bay health care workers and community members stood side by side on Saturday to call for New Zealand to better value its nurses, midwives, health care assistants and kaimahi hauora.

Maranga mai – Rise up, was the message to members of the community wanting to support a stronger health system at the rally at Wharaurangi on The Strand.

The rally was not part of any strike action, but one of 19 events organised by the New Zealand Nurses Organisation throughout New Zealand in response to New Zealand's nursing shortage and pay inequity issues.

The rallies, more of which are being planned as the general election draws nearer, are to demonstrate to political parties that communities stand alongside health care workers in their struggle for more equitable pay and better working conditions.

Whakatāne paediatric nurse and nurses organisation representative Tracy Black said nurses were desperately under resourced and sometimes felt that they were not valued.

'On the ground, at the front line, time and time again it's nurses, it's health care assistants, it's midwives that are having to stand up, through the pandemic and all the natural disasters, we stood up, every time. Why? Because we care. We're a profession that cares but sometimes it feels to nurses that we're just not valued.”

Several community members spoke at the event, including Whakatāne Mayor Victor Luca, in his role as president of the Whakatāne District Grey Power Association.

Whakatāne mayor and Grey Power Whakatāne president Victor Luca endorses the demands of nurses and sought a halt to ongoing privatisation of the health system.

'Nursing is a job I couldn't do for all the money in the world and I truly appreciate what they do,” Dr Luca said. 'Nurses should be rewarded appropriately.

'I have never occupied a hospital bed but I know that my time is coming. And when it does eventually come I would like to know that the health system has my back.”

He said both he and Grey Power had been advocating strongly for some time for a halt to the ongoing privatisation of the health system.

'I am here to endorse the demands of nurses for better pay and conditions and also to call for a halt to continued privatisation of our health system which I view as the fundamental problem to be addressed.”

Ms Black said the nurses appreciated Dr Luca's commitment along with the other members of the public who stood with them at the rally.

'That was what Saturday was all about. It was about us calling for action, not just as people who work in the health system but for the members of the public to stand up with us to ensure that we have a health care system that provides a service for all and not just for some and that we value the workforce.”

Other speakers on the day were Ms Black and other nurses and health care assistant students, along with other members of the public.

New Zealand Nurses Organisation representative Tracy Black and Whakatāne man Gordon Dickson demonstrate that nurses are worth more than they are getting.

Danae Lee, whose mother is a registered nurse, spoke about her own experiences.

'So she was able to speak around watching the pressures on her mother, having to live it as well and her own struggles, both as a patient and as a family member of a nurse.”

Ms Black said the rally was 'a good start”.

'It was nice to see the turnout, especially seeing that we're a really small community. The next one's coming and we would like to get more of the public involved.”

-Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ on Air.


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