Nurse leaders are expressing disappointment that the Health Minister’s newly announced Ministerial Advisory Group does not include a voice from the largest health profession.
Memo Musa, head of the New Zealand Nurses’ Organisation and Professor Jenny Carryer, executive director of the College of Nurses were responding to Health Minister Dr David Clark’s announcement today of the urgent establishment of a five-member Ministerial Advisory Group. That announcement followed quickly in the wake of the early resignation of the Director-General of Health and Ministry of Health chief executive Chai Chuah announced yesterday.
Musa applauded Health Minister David Clarke’s decision to set up an advisory group to take a really good look at the health service. “…However nurses must be included at this level of decision-making. We will raise this issue with the Minister next week.”
Likewise Carryer described the new advisory group as “an excellent opportunity” to provide an urgent challenge to the health status quo but said it was “deeply disappointing that a senior nursing voice is not present” on the group.
“Well over 40,000 nurses are closest in every location to the consumers who are the centre of our focus and thus they have a great deal of insight into the necessary changes,” said Carryer.
Musa added that the issues facing nurses and the nursing profession – like safe staffing, new graduate employment, nurse workforce shortages and pay equity – would require “strategic foresight, courage and determination to resolve.”
Carryer said under Chai Chuah’s leadership the Ministry had “had a vision of what needed to change in health to accommodate the future”. “However they have struggled to align operational concerns with that vision. Often that is because the same interests are always around the table providing advice and determining the future.”
Musa said Chuah had made great contributions to the health system in a number of senior health management roles, including overseeing the review of the New Zealand Health Strategy while he was Director General.
“Chai’s stewardship of the health system has been at times managed under extreme pressure but throughout these times we have had a good working relationship with him,” Musa said.
“The health system has been under strain because of the previous government’s decisions to underfund it year after year. DHB chief executives are under huge pressure too and some resigned.”
“They were constantly asked by the last government to cut costs, at the risk of patient and staff safety. This is clearly an unacceptable proposition and this stress has also strained professional relationships at the top level of management and across the health system.”
Musa said it was now important to quickly establish stable leadership at the Ministry so the new Government’s ambitious health programme could be implemented.