A notice to strike that was issued this week by the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) is a last resort to show DHBs the value of the nursing workforce, says a Hawke's Bay NZNO delegate.
On Tuesday, Hawke's Bay DHB received the strike notice from the NZNO advising that nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants covered by the union's Multi Employment Collective Agreement (MECA) would take strike action for 24 hours from 7am on Thursday, July 5, until Friday, July 6.
A NZNO spokesperson said more than 1100 staff at Hawke's Bay DHB belonged to the NZNO, which a DHB spokesperson said represented a vast majority of the workforce, and on which contingency planning was being based.
NZNO Hawke's Bay delegate Tarryn Worsley said that nurses, healthcare assistants and midwives felt they were worth more and were prepared to strike to show the ministry and DHBs that their latest offer was not robust enough to redeem years of underfunding and devaluation of such an indispensable health resource.
"Strike action is our last resort and it saddens us as a workforce that we've had to fight so hard for safe staffing when it should be everyone's unquestionable right to receive the care they deserve and the care that we as a profession so desperately want to be able to provide."
She said it was also saddening that these health workers were still not being recognised for the work they did for communities and have continued to do despite the insurmountable pressures and moral conflicts they faced daily.
"We hold out hope that mediation today will generate an offer we can accept but NZNO members are feeling exasperated and are willing to show the ministry and DHBs that we will continue to advocate and fight for the health and safety of our staff and communities without hesitation."
Hawke's Bay DHB chief executive Kevin Snee said the strike action would occur at every location where the DHB provided healthcare or hospital care services, but that contingency planning was already well under way.
This included seeking help from people who could volunteer to help cover essential work, although not life preserving, especially after hours.
Volunteers would be provided with support and training.
"This will be a very difficult time for everyone, and we thank everyone who has already offered assistance or who is considering helping," Dr Snee said.
The DHB was working with NZNO to ensure life-preserving services were available.
"Our aim is to keep everyone safe during the strike, patients and staff alike – and that will mean a significant change to normal services."
People should not delay seeking medical treatment or going to hospital if the matter was urgent, he advised.
People should dial 111 for emergencies or an ambulance, or could visit their GP, medical centre, local pharmacy or call HealthLine 0800 611 116.
Anyone who wanted to offer clinical or non-clinical volunteer support could call 0800 248 794 or email firstname.lastname@example.org