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“Lies, damned lies and nursing statistics.”

Hon David Cunliffe
Minister of Health

11 June 2008

“Lies, damned lies and nursing statistics.”

Minister of Health David Cunliffe said today’s alarmist press release from the National Party on nursing could be put into perspective with a few simple figures.

The so called 46 percent increase in nursing vacancies (650 vacant positions) quoted by Jo Goodhew in her press release actually represents just 2.9 percent of the nursing workforce.

There are more than 22,000 nurses currently employed and working in DHBs around the country, at any one time there will be vacancies due to resignations, retirement and newly created nursing positions which organisations will be working to fill.

“Fluctuation of short-term vacancies is a normal part of nurses moving between jobs,” Mr Cunliffe said

However Mr Cunliffe was disappointed if any theatre session had to be cancelled due to nursing shortages.

“Auckland DHB has confirmed that of 216 theatre sessions postponed more than half of these occurred in 2005/2006 year. While that is not good enough it does not paint a deteriorating picture, but does highlight an area we need to continue to work on.”

“I also note that during this same period Auckland DHB actually increased the number of nurses it employed by 355.

“It is also convenient that Ms Goodhew forgot to mention that the increase in vacancies Waitemata DHB was due to the DHB recruiting to fill newly created nursing positions so that it could increase service delivery and staff a new 8 bed High Dependency Unit, 20 new medical beds at Waitakere Hospital and 24 new beds at North Shore Hospital.”

“National can’t have it both ways on the one hand Mr Ryall complains that there is insufficient capacity for the winter rush on the other hand Ms Goodhew complains that resulting additional vacancies while capacity is being built is a sign of system failure.”

“One of the reasons we need more nurses is because we are delivering more services, there are more people getting elective surgery and more people using diagnostic services.”

Mr Cunliffe said workforce development was an area that needed to be taken seriously but wildly exaggerated claims about increases in vacancies added nothing to the debate.

“Since coming to office this Government has dramatically increased pay for nurses and continues to engage on how best to develop this vital area of the health workforce.”

ENDS


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