22 Jun 2022

National says fast-tracking nurses' and midwives' residency would ease health system strain

9:28 am on 22 June 2022

National Party leader Christopher Luxon says its plan to add nurses and midwives to the fast tracking residency scheme would help the current strain on the health system.

Christopher Luxon says a National government would focus on health outcomes. Photo:

Emergency departments around are facing high demand and staff shortages, with at least one district health board delaying planned surgeries for weeks.

Despite Health Minister Andrew Little saying the health system was coping, it was failing, Luxon said.

Three things needed to be done to improve the situation, he said, including bringing in a skilled workforce and accelerating the path to give midwives and nurses residency; investing in frontline services and staff rather than bureaucracy; and putting in place health targets which had been removed.

Luxon acknowledged that there was currently a worldwide demand for talent, including in the health sector.

"But we're doing this with one hand behind our back, because on the one hand we're saying if you're a doctor you can come in a fast-track immediately to residency, but if you're a nurse or a midwife you can't, you've got two years to wait."

New Zealand was a much less desirable place for nurses and midwives to come than Australia which had a fast track to residency for them, Luxon said.

"We're 4000 nurses short at the moment and again a lot of it can be solved by actually opening up our immigration settings, making New Zealand attractive relative to Australia and Canada and other places."

Luxon would not say whether or not National would pay nurses more if it became government saying they were focused on outcomes rather than bureaucracy.

"We would stop spending the money building bureaucracy and management in Wellington, we would put that money into the frontline and make sure we improve services, doctors, nurses when we get them here," he said.

Luxon pledged to increase health and education spend each year that he was in government.

Under the government inflation had increased by up to 14 percent over the last four years and a solution to that would be increasing the tax thresholds, he said.

"It's pragmatic, it's sensible, it's not ideological."

The government had been making economic policy "on the fly", Luxon said.

"Actually that's band-aid economics and that's not a good long-term solution. All we're saying is we've got a cost of living crisis, the simplest, most easiest thing we can do is inflation adjust tax thresholds and give people back their own money so they can spend it and save it as they see fit."

Luxon said he would commit to delivering and improving health outcomes.

The government "confuses and conflates spending announcements with actually securing outcomes", Luxon said.

"This government cannot get anything done, it doesn't matter which portfolio you pick up, they're actually spending more money, hiring more bureaucrats and getting worse outcomes."

Health waiting lists were an example, Luxon said.

"We've gone from 1000 people waiting more than four months to see a first specialist before Covid to almost 15,000 and now post-Covid we're at 37,000 New Zealanders haven't been able to see a specialist to get their first specialist appointment within a four month period."

Measures, targets and delivery of services were what made a difference to people, Luxon said.

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