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Govt neglect leaves nursing in sick state

Govt neglect leaves nursing in sick state

Nursing students have a grim prognosis in New Zealand and face a lifetime of debt, low pay and serious staff shortages in the workplace, Green MPs Nandor Tanczos and Sue Kedgley said today.

Nandor, the Green Tertiary Education spokesperson and Sue Kedgley, the Green Health spokesperson, said a report today by the New Zealand Nurses Organisation showed the health system was in a perilous state.

"The Government could have addressed the serious nursing shortages by making the profession more attractive through lower fees and better conditions. However, the Government has done the complete opposite," said Nandor.

"The pool of graduates has drained from 1410 in 1997 to 1154 in 2002 and too many of them head overseas to escape being saddled with student debt because the crucial work they do is underpaid.

"We all know the answer. Even national has plagiarised the idea: Write off student debt for those who commit to working in New Zealand, cap tuition fees at $1500 and reintroduce the universal student allowance - all cornerstones of Green Tertiary policy," said Nandor.

Sue Kedgley said the fact that the median nurses pay of $31,839 (2001 Census) was less than $2000 more than the starting salary of most nurses was damning evidence of the Government's failure to improve working conditions of the nursing profession.

"The Government's pay equity taskforce must urgently address the pay level of the predominantly female nursing workforce because women take twice as long as men to pay back their student debt," said Ms Kedgley.

"There is no coincidence that 60 per cent of the report's respondents consider heading overseas to work because they're overworked and underpaid in an industry that is already 1000 nurses short."

Ms Kedgley warned that the health sector would face serious strife if the report's findings were not acted on.

"Despite worthy platitudes, the government has not addressed the issue of serious nursing shortages. This has serious consequences for the health of a large number of New Zealanders who have had operations cancelled because of ongoing nursing shortages.

"There is no coincidence that 60 per cent of the report's respondents consider heading overseas to work because they're overworked and underpaid in an industry that is already 1000 nurses short."

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