- By Christopher Luxon, Leader of the Opposition and MP for Botany
Last week, I was proud to announce National’s plan to deliver more nurses and midwives.
I made the announcement at White Cross Lunn Ave, in Mt Wellington, an urgent care and GP practice suffering from the shortage of these essential healthcare workers.
New Zealand’s healthcare system is in tremendous crisis.
There are many things that Labour should be doing to fix the problems, but the first logical place to start is with the workforce.
New Zealand has a severe shortage of nurses and midwives contributing to ballooning waitlists, delays accessing treatment and dangerously overcrowded emergency departments.
Nurses are at the frontline and are bearing the brunt of the shortage. Having to work long shifts without enough staff is driving stress, anxiety and burn-out.
However, instead of urgently addressing the workforce crisis, Labour has restructured the bureaucracy, while hard-working and dedicated health professionals have struggled with the weight of a faltering system.
The sad result has been a significant increase in the number of Wellington-based health bureaucrats and a shortage of at least 4000 nurses and hundreds of midwives across the country.
A National government that I lead will not stand by and allow the hard-working frontline to continue to burnout while sick and injured New Zealanders languish too long on wait lists.
A National government will encourage more New Zealanders to study nursing or midwifery, and to stay in the country after graduation.
To do this, National will pay nurses’ and midwives’ student loan repayments up to a total of $4500 a year for the first five years after graduating, provided they remain working in their profession in New Zealand.
Covering student loan repayments for five years means a typical registered nurse or midwife would see an increase in their after-tax take-home pay of $87 a week.
Over a five-year period, they would be up to $22,500 better off.
To access the student loan repayment scheme, nurses and midwives will need to enter into a bonding agreement and commit to working in New Zealand in their profession for at least five years in continuity after they graduate.
There will be exceptions for illness and family planning.
National will also make New Zealand more competitive in the global competition for skilled workers by allowing qualified overseas nurses and midwives to come here on a six-month temporary visa, without a job offer, to look for work and to bring their immediate family members with them.
We will also establish a relocation support scheme, offering up to 1000 qualified overseas nurses and midwives relocation grants worth up to $10,000 each to support their move to New Zealand.
The day after the announcement, I visited the great team at East Care here in Botany. They do amazing work servicing the needs of 130,000 people in East Auckland.
Since I became the local MP for Botany, I have advocated for East Care to go back to being the 24/7 service it used to be.
At the time, the old Counties Manukau District Health Board decided that Middlemore Hospital’s emergency department had plenty of capacity so it would not fund East Care to be a 24/7 service.
But now, Middlemore is struggling to keep up with the demand.
If East Care was still providing urgent care, it would have taken a lot of pressure off the public health care system.
If there were more nurses, it would also take the pressure off the emergency departments.
Call it another failure under this Labour Government. Labour has overseen a crisis in the health workforce.
National will deliver more nurses and midwives so our hardworking frontline feel supported and Kiwis can access the health care they deserve.