On Wednesday the 15th of February one of the busiest roads in Auckland, New Zealand saw a united union movement launch the PSI Human Right to Health campaign in the Oceania sub-region. Two hundred life-size cutouts represented 20,000 missing health care workers within New Zealand alone.
According to the New Zealand unions the 20,000 missing health care workers are a result of an estimated NZ$1.85 billion dollar hole in the national health budget. The burden of this under-spending is not just borne by the existing health care workers who have to work harder to fill the gaps, but by the communities.
* One in nine Kiwis can’t afford to see a doctor. That’s half a million people.
* Surgery waiting times have increased by 35% to 304 days, since 2013.
* 170,000 Kiwis who need surgery aren’t on a waiting list.
* Mental health crisis referrals have increased by almost 300% in the past five years. People working in mental health are struggling to cope.
* $1.85 billion is the equivalent to 7,400 missing doctors or 27,750 nurses who can't help save lives, or 111,000 missing hip operations
Glenn Barclay, one of NZPSA’s National Secretaries said that a recent Consumer NZ’s Cost of Living survey found healthcare costs were New Zealanders’ greatest concern after housing.
“YesWeCare is calling on the Government to restore health funding and ensure every Kiwi gets the health care they need when they need it."
It was a theme that Oceania affiliates agreed was consistent across the region. The Fiji Nurses Association has been working with the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association and the New Zealand Nurses Organisation to build the case for better pay for Fiji nurses. Lower pay and outdated pay scales mean that Fiji nurses are looking to work overseas, making retention of the workforce difficult. The Tonga Nurses Association’s Salome Moala talked of the impact that a shortage of doctors was having on nurses who are increasingly being asked to fill the gaps. In Australia health care workers are fighting against the privatisation of public hospitals and disability services which will see the loss of enforceable minimum staffing (nurse to patient ratios) and the fragmentation of specialist services.
In New Zealand and Australia social services workers are seeing cost cutting impact on the services they can provide. They believe that this is leaving their communities more vulnerable. One worker said that the reality is that they don’t have the money or the resources that they need to do their work.
This highlights the need for PSI’s global Human Right to Health campaign that calls for governments everywhere to invest in a better future for our communities by investing in public health care. Go to https://www.facebook.com/yeswecare.nz/videos/386438211736186/ to see a video of the rally and to find out more about the NZ campaign and their fight for the Human Right to Health.