“The Health Care System Is Second Rate”
11 February 2010
Continuing in our series of Migrant Stories: first hand accounts of migrant life in New Zealand, taken from locations around the net.
This story was written by a nurse with over 30 years of experience. In it she tells of prejudice and how difficult it was to find a job. She also talks about how thousands and thousands of health care dollars are being wasted because there is no incentive to change and of how people wait so long for some tests and treatments that permanent damage is done to their health. She is minded to stay and work through this but her Kiwi partner is starting to look toward Australia to make some money.
“As a nurse in the US with over 3 decades of experience, I can tell you I had one helluva time trying to get registered to work as a nurse in this country. I have found there is prejudice here – even if you are skilled and willing to work, not coming here looking for a handout – just a JOB. (I lost track of the number of applications I filled out – to do ANYTHING – before I literally got lucky and got a job at a DHB hospital as a Health Care Assistant, which was a major stepping stone to getting the registration.)
My partner, a kiwi, was just as surprised (and disappointed) at the difficulty I had. I make a good living here, and it’s because I do work hard. And, to be honest, I’m going through some not unexpected issues where I work – but in talking with other foreign (and young, less experienced) nurses, it seems to be the norm. So I am just biting my tongue and getting through it; I know enough to recognize it and I can deal with it. Some of it is because it’s New Zealand, some of it is because it’s nurses.
Another negative here – they are resistant to change moreso than anywhere I’ve ever seen. I worked in the health insurance industry for 10 years before I came here, and one of the things I looked for were areas where money was wasted. Here, I can see thousands and thousands of health care dollars wasted because there is no incentive to change things. And they do some things here the same way we did them in US hospitals when I was a student nurse. And since residents here see health care as “free”, they really don’t care. And they don’t realize the health care system is second rate. Yep, I said it and I really believe it. I see things every day that scare the hell out of me. People have to wait days for some tests and treatments that would be done in a matter of hours in the US. By then, permanent damage has been done. But, oh well, that’s just the way it is.
The saddest thing is, I believe New Zealand, because it IS a small country, has the potential to be a world leader in health care. Too bad it will never happen, because nothing will change unless there is a catastrophe that makes it absolutely necessary and without option.
My life here is simpler, and I do delight in the small things – like seeing the covey of quail cross the road when I’m on my way to work in the morning, or seeing gorgeous flowers in bloom, or just simply the ever changing scenery (which at the moment is pretty brown and crispy.) So, I’m staying, even though I know my partner is starting to get the itch to go back to Oz and make some money. He has been looking for a job for several months. So, yeah, even if you have experience and education, that doesn’t mean smooth sailing as far as getting a job here.
Excuse me, though, as I must put on my rose-colored glasses and go sit in the sun. (First applying sunscreen so I don’t develop skin cancer!)”
Doctors and Nurses Notes
There is a workforce crisis in New Zealand’s hospitals. Specialist senior doctors are being lost and there is a shortage of cancer specialists. Staff are lost to Australia (where the salaries are 35% higher) and to private practice. The causes are: low pay by international standards, overwork and lack of resources to do the job.
In 2008 The College of Nurses, Aotearoa, NZ Inc. advised the incoming government of the following problems:
*“Unmanageable workloads and limited job satisfaction through inability to maintain professional standards of care deter people from remaining in the nursing profession. Most nurses graduate with high levels of debt and emigration is seen as a sensible option for many who face many years of debt repayment in New Zealand. Currently 23% of the NZ nursing workforce is imported, often from countries which can ill afford to lose nurses.
* The many innovations and initiatives that nursing has striven for (such as establishment of the Nurse Practitioner role and increased nursing services in PHOs) are consistently slowed, impeded or blocked at health policy level.
* The magnet hospital movement is a strongly evidence based solution to patient safety and nurse workforce recruitment and retention. It remains largely ignored in NZ despite vigorous efforts by nursing to see it promoted.
* A larger Maori nursing workforce is needed to provide services to Maori“
See also an article in The Nelson Mail, 6 March 2010: “Nurses fear cutbacks put lives at risk” :
” The Nelson Marlborough District Health Board has been told by Health Minister Tony Ryall to stop spending so much money because of its worsening deficit, but nurses are saying the constraints are putting patients’ lives at risk.
Nurses who expressed concerns over these risks are too scared to be named for fear of losing their jobs…
…(A) nurse said sometimes there were only two or three nurses on an afternoon shift for a full ward of 30 patients and one house surgeon for the whole hospital. “Concerns have been raised through the appropriate channels and nothing gets done about it,” she said.
A third nurse, who left her job because of the stress, ended up hating nursing. “You leave there feeling like you haven’t done your job.”
There was a culture of bullying and a “sit down and be quiet culture” at the hospital, she said.”
Updated 11 March 2010: The Nelson Mail
“Nelson nurses tell of ‘horrific workloads’”
“…One nurse, who said she sought counselling after months of stressful shifts, ended up resigning. She said six other nurses had also left their jobs at the ward she worked in since September last year and most were not being replaced.
The woman, who wants to remain anonymous, said she was speaking out because she believed it was important to battle for patient and nurse safety. She believed nurses needed a lawyer to work in their defence because of a lack of action over their concerns from the New Zealand Nurses Organisation and hospital managers. Letters shown to The Nelson Mail outline a detailed complaint she made to senior management, including the director of nursing, last year. In the letter, the nurse points to a shift last winter which prompted nurses to file an incident form.
It was one of the “many horrific shifts” she had to work. There were four nurses when six should have been on with six admissions, a cardiac arrest and a death. She had no meal break and each nurse had seven to eight patients as well as a student to oversee…
Former Nelson Hospital nurse: “As nurses we expect the odd busy horrible shift, but this becomes an ethical dilemma when the majority of shifts are like this.”
“Lives have already been put at risk, with deaths occurring.”
“The environment at this hospital is already at crisis point, with staff leaving and patient deaths. How the hell are staff going to cope with cutbacks if the environment has already been so badly affected in the past few years? The winter will be a nightmare from hell.“
Current nurse: “Maternity staff have been leaving in droves over the past 18 months and there has been a policy not to replace them.”
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