A “total failure” of a health system, lack of GPs and a chronic shortage in the nursing and midwifery profession are major causes for concern in Hawke’s Bay, says registered nurse and midwife Jean Te Huia. 

Huia’s response comes after BayBuzz questioned her around the coalition government’s health policies, and what could be done to address health issues in the region.

Huia said she believed there was a “chronic” shortage in the nursing and midwifery profession because of the “huge changes” the professions had undergone in the past 30 years, which “failed the community and also failed the profession”.

She singled out current nurse training practices as a root cause, saying that hands-on hospital-based training needed to be brought back, like it was when she started her nursing training.

“In 1973 I left high school and enrolled into nursing training at the Hastings hospital. I got paid to learn how to be a nurse.

“On every ward there were at least 10-12 nurses. There was a charge nurse and then senior registered nurses and then student nurses from 1st year to 4th year; we all worked together, and the patients got better care, because there were so many of us, and the senior nurses supported the learning needs of the students, teaching us techniques that they had mastered over the many years they had worked at their profession.”

She said student nurses today had to pay thousands of dollars to for their training and didn’t get paid while training.

More broadly, Huia argues that “Māori are disadvantaged because they have less wealth, less resources to enable them to participate in education or to afford health, education, services etc, and they are then forced to accept health delivery from others, or not get any health care at all,” noting that many without permanent housing cannot register with GP practices.

Health Minister Shane Reti intends to address the workforce issue by addressing pay, conditions, and training.

But Huia says, “I believe the constant changes the government keep making to the health system are a total failure, and it has been that way for the past 30 years … The government keeps experimenting with the health system which impacts negatively on the lives of people. I’ve been around too long-I’ve seen it all, over the past 30 years – four RHA’s (Regional Health Authorities), then eight Regionals, then 21 DHB’s and then a Māori Health Authority which was doing great things at last, and a mainstream one, and now go back to just one Health Authority again.

“People are disillusioned with the changes – been there, done that.”

Public Interest Journalism funded by NZ on Air

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