'We need more health workers': NZ invests $76 million to grow workforce

The investment, however, was met with mixed reactions from unions

'We need more health workers': NZ invests $76 million to grow workforce

The New Zealand government has announced a $76-million allocation in its Budget 2022 for the growth of a "more sustainable pipeline" of health workers.

"We have allocated funding to support the growth of a more sustainable pipeline of health workers - particularly our primary and community care and Māori workforces – with $76 million over four years has been set aside to make progress," said Health Minister Andrew Little in a speech.

It comes after the minister stressed the need of having a "skilled" workforce amid the government's ambitious plan to overhaul the health system.

"We need more health workers," said Little. "Last week's announcement that we are bringing forward the border opening might help to see more health workers come into the country."

"But the need is much longer-term, and we need to take a strategic approach supported by investment."

Little in his speech cited the need to address issues such as fair renumeration and pay equity to make the health sector an "attractive employer."

"If we get these things right, they will be better for our workforce, but also better for the people our workforce is there to support," said Little.

In addition to the government's $76-million investment, a total of $31 million will also be used every year to support innovation in education, training, and development of the workforce.

Read more: Nurses' association calls off vote on pay equity settlement

Unions react

The reception of unions to the allocated budget seemed mixed, with the Public Service Association (PSA) calling it "much-needed."

"The investment in workers and workforce development is much needed and will be appreciated by our members who work in the health sector," said the PSA in a statement.

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO), on the other hand, was more sceptical of the allocated budget for the workforce.

"We're not even sure what that means, but $19 million a year is really just loose change," said NZNO chief executive Paul Goulter in a statement.

"There is nothing mentioned about nursing wages or conditions, or about how the Government intends to address the widening pay gap between nurses who work for DHBs (District Health Boards) and those in other sectors - and that is just going to perpetuate health inequities and staffing problems for non DHB providers."

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