2000 extra nurses claim hollow: union

By Derek Cheng

Tony Ryall, Health Minister. Photo / Getty Images
Tony Ryall, Health Minister. Photo / Getty Images

A Government claim that there are 2000 extra nurses since National took office is being called hollow because the figure includes unregistered health assistants.

The Ministry of Health and Health Minister Tony Ryall have often cited the figure, along with 800 more doctors, but this is being challenged by the Nurses Organisation.

"It's a hollow claim. It's just part of that spin to paint a picture of health services when the reality is not that rosy," said organisation chief executive Geoff Annals.

"I'm surprised to hear the 2000 figure includes health assistants."

He said there were thousands of health assistants in the sector.

They were untrained and unregulated compared with nurses, who had to be registered. But they worked with nurses and did some nursing work, mainly in the aged care sector.

Mr Annals said there were more nurses in the sector than three years ago but he did not know how many.

"Even if the 2000 figure was true, it would be meaningless because if we needed 4000 more, we're only halfway there.." The real question was how many nurses were needed and will be needed in the years to come, he said.

"The fact the figure includes unregulated nursing workers just further compounds this smoke and mirror stuff we have, instead of the hard information that the public of New Zealand needs," he said.

Mr Ryall dismissed the organisation's concerns about the validity of his numbers, "because the nurses union actively campaigns against the Government, it's as simple as that".

Last week senior doctors' union executive director Ian Powell challenged Mr Ryall's claim that there were 800 more doctors.

"Based on figures provided to us by all district health boards, the number of public hospital specialists increased by only 373 over the three years from July 2008 to July 2011. Even an extra 373 specialists is inflated because it includes some short-term appointments," Dr Powell said.

"This is well short of the over 200 extra hospital specialists per year for the next 20 years that we have agreed with the district health boards that we need, if we are to overcome our workforce crisis and catch up with Australia."

The Ministry of Health figures for doctors included house officers, house surgeons, probationers and interns. The nursing personnel included registered midwives and health assistants.

Locums were excluded.

- NZ Herald

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