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Public Health Bill Good But Needs Improvement

New Zealand Nurses’ Organisation
Media Release
8 April 2008

Public Health Bill Good But Needs Improvement

The Health Select Committee must address potential shortcomings of the Public Health Bill that could see young kiwis miss out on vital health services and leave key nursing skills under-utilised, according to the New Zealand Nurses’ Organisation.

NZNO will tomorrow present its submission to the Health Select Committee on the Public Health Bill. NZNO congratulates the Government in updating fragmented and outdated legislation for public health and considers that the “all risks” approach that is used in the Bill allows for comprehensive management of emerging threats to public health.

However, NZNO CEO Geoff Annals says there are two important issues that the Select Committee must address.

“As the Bill is written, a designated officer such as a Public Health Nurse is unable to examine a child under 16 without the consent of a parent or guardian. It would mean that, without consent, a Public Health Nurse would not be able to carry out something as simple as checking a child for lice or school sores and would have to refer the child on to another health professional,” says Geoff Annals.

“The ‘New Entrant Check,’ which is part of the Government’s Well Child Strategy, is routinely undertaken by a Public Health Nurse. The vast majority of parents and guardians give their consent, but it is often that very small number of children for whom consent is not given that is at the most risk. Not checking these children is an opportunity missed and may result in otherwise avoidable complications in later life,” says Geoff Annals.

Geoff Annals also says Nurse Practitioners need to have their roles and capabilities more formally recognised within the Bill. “Currently, there is a significant Ministry of Health project looking to remove over 60 legislative barriers to practice but this Bill just adds another.” Only Medical Practitioners are acknowledged as being the appropriate health professionals to carry out a number of duties that Nurse Practitioners have the skills and experience perform themselves. Just one example is allowing a Nurse Practitioner to directly notify the Medical Officer of Health of an out break of an infectious disease without going through a Medical Practitioner.

Geoff Annals will lead the NZNO delegation speaking to the Health Select Committee at 10:25-10:40 am, April 9 in Select Committee Room 4, Parliament.


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