Health Minister David Clark should have been there during nurses' strike - Tova O'Brien

  • 17/07/2018

Health Minister David Clark should not have left the country during the build up to the nurses' strike last week, Newshub political editor Tova O'Brien says.

Dr Clark on Friday revealed he was away for 33 hours from last Tuesday morning until last Wednesday evening because he was escorting his family overseas. He left the country while nurses were planning to strike across New Zealand last Thursday. 

While he faced criticism from National leader Simon Bridges for not fronting during the strike, Duncan Garner sided with Dr Clark, saying he did the "honourable" thing escorting his family to Australia. 

But Newshub's political editor Tova O'Brien disagrees. She told The AM Show on Tuesday she agrees with Garner on many points he's made including that no one should begrudge Dr Clark for doing something for his family, and that he wasn't directly involved with the nurses' negotiations in the first place. 

"But there are 365 days in this year. There was one day when he needed to be here and needed to be seen listening to those 30,000 nurses who had walked off the job. That was one day," O'Brien told Garner on The AM Show. 

She said the minister has every right to prioritise his family and people shouldn't ask questions about his private life. However, O'Brien said Dr Clark should have realised that it was an important time for him as the Health Minister to be seen showing his full support for nurses. 

"The strike was foreshadowed well in advance. He knew when this was happening," O'Brien said. Any other time this year would have been fine for the minister to be absent, she added, but he should have been seen throwing his full support behind the nurses. 

"Brilliantly said," Garner told O'Brien. 

The DHBs have gone back to the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) this week with another offer after having four previous offers rejected. The Government has disappointed nurses by saying there is no more money on the table and not offering enough extra staff to cope with shortages.

O'Brien said the latest offer made by DHBs was for around 500 new nurses, but NZNO has said it wants around 1300 new nurses on the rosters. 

"Public sympathy is still very much on the side of the nurses," she said. 

Dr Clark told The AM Show on Tuesday he "can't answer at this stage" whether the Government will increase the amount of nurses in the offer to NZNO.