Duncan Garner: Irony - nurses finally get safe staffing levels during strike

Nurses strike for better pay
Nurses strike for better pay Photo credit: Newshub.

OPINION: Oh the irony of a strike. It takes a strike to flush out the truth.

Immediately after The AM Show concluded at 9am in Rotorua on Friday I was approached by a local nurse with some remarkable news. She told me she worked in the intensive care unit and for the first time that she can remember it was properly staffed to legal requirements and "it worked better than it ever had".

The nurse, whom I have chosen not to name, said in intensive care it was remarkably calm and comfortable, and she left her shift at 7am more satisfied than she can remember in recent history.

I asked her how on Earth during a strike could intensive care be better resourced than when there is no strike? That's because there are legal minimum standards of care and safety required during such stop-work actions. They had more nurses on the intensive care ward than on normal days.

But hang on - so that does mean on most other days when normal staffing returns there are fewer intensive care nurses on? Correct.

We don't have enough of them to keep up to the legal and safe requirement deemed to keep people out of harm's way. I can't draw any other conclusion, can you?

You can see why the nurses are unhappy at just 500 new nurses. But can you see why they're angry Winston Peters has said enough is enough, back to work? I can. What would he know? He gave the Pacific more dough and more of an ear than the nurses. Was he a nurse too, and an underground miner, lawyer and politician? There is tension in all directions. Union versus nurses. Vice-versa too.

New Zealand needs more nurses to be safe. Nurses want 1500 more. The Government has offered 500. It takes a strike to get adequate staffing levels in intensive care.

New Zealand 2018, with billions in surplus - we're talking about another 1000 nurses. Surely we can do this. It's very sad. Priorities matter. They tell you everything you need to know. Jacinda, is it still, "Let's do this?"

Duncan Garner is the host of The AM Show.