by Kevin Hague
Happy International Nurses Day to all nurses in New Zealand. And happy birthday Florence Nightingale, whose influence on the nursing profession was profound, and who would have been 191 today.
The theme of International Nurses Day 2011 is increasing access and equity, and it is particularly timely. Next week’s budget will see cuts across a range of social services and income support such as Working for Families, and it is reasonable to assume these cuts will have a flow on impact on access to health care. This is on the back of cuts to primary health funding in last year’s budget. Less income and a lack of funding make health choices harder.
25% of New Zealand kids live in poverty and there is a direct correlation between their economic status and their poor health outcomes. Last year Dr Nikki Turner, from Child Poverty Action Group, put together a presentation called Poverty Leads to Poor Health that shows overall a child from a low-income household has a 1.4 times higher risk of dying than a child from a wealthy household. She also shows that after hour emergency costs for kids can be over $50 depending on where you live. That is a lot of money if you are on a low income.
Nurses are on the frontline dealing with these issue day to day. So it is great to see their union, the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO), again leading the charge for a better health system. Their 2011 election manifesto sets out a series of recommendations that would make our system better and improve access and equity. Universal access to primary health care, greater investments in the nursing workforce and addressing the drivers of poor health outcomes are essential to building a happy and healthy New Zealand.
Nurses’ historic pay equity campaign showed that they and their union are capable of winning the changes they want. Let’s all get behind their campaign Vote Well for a Healthy Future to win the health system we need.