National MP Erica Stanford says axing of Te Whatu Ora staff shows Govt is out of touch and 'distracted'

National is hitting out at the Government saying it's out of touch after it proposed axing 1600 jobs at Te Whatu Ora. 

A Te Whatu Ora spokesperson told Newshub the organisation is entering the next stage of consultation - where it proposes to streamline corporate or back office roles to "better support frontline care".

As a result, 1600 of its staff could "potentially" be on the chopping block, which will impact people in management and leadership roles and teams in back-office functions. 

National has long been calling for more funding for frontline health services, especially since Christopher Luxon was elected Party leader.  

Luxon told AM in October last year National would consider paying nurses and doctors more if elected this year. 

"We've got to shift the funding from building a central bureaucracy here in Wellington and make sure that money is going to frontline services, whether it be doctors, nurses or support inside those emergency departments," Luxon said. 

Even though the axing of 1600 jobs would free up some cash, National MP Erica Stanford criticised the Government for being "distracted" with axing backroom staff instead of focusing on frontline needs. 

"Doing a major health restructure in the middle of a global pandemic was always a bad idea," Stanford told AM co-host Melissa Chan-Green. 

"People are waiting in emergency departments for 24 hours, three times more than they were in 2017. We've got ambulances ramped outside hospitals three times longer than they ever were. We've dropped all of the standards we used to have, the better public service standards in health are completely gone." 

National MP Erica Stanford.
National MP Erica Stanford. Photo credit: AM

When questioned by Chan-Green about whether National would prefer Heath NZ continue with the 1600 jobs that were deemed unnecessary, Stanford said there were other things the Government could've done. 

"There were things it could have done at the time to do exactly what they're doing now, to rationalise, but actually their focus should always have been on targets on frontline need and now we're seeing the evidence and everything's gotten worse since they started the restructure," she said.

But Immigration Minister Michael Wood, who was appearing alongside Stanford on AM's weekly political panel, was quick to hit back saying the National MP was just playing politics. 

"I've literally sat in this chair when the National Party has criticised the health system for having too many people in the backroom, now that we're doing these things, there is criticism as well, it's just a bit of politics," Wood said. 

"The reality is since we came to office, we have 4000 more nurses in the system. We have over 1000 more doctors in the system. We need to keep increasing that resource and putting it there and actually having a streamlined, more efficient structure is an important part of delivering that for New Zealanders."

Wood said the job cuts were expected and it's about streamlining the organisation. 

"One of the points of that has been to be able to have a more efficient organisation, you don't need 29 different layers of executive management, of com staff, of IT staff and so on," Wood said. 

Immigration Minister Michael Wood.
Immigration Minister Michael Wood. Photo credit: AM

Wood acknowledges it's a "difficult time" for the workers affected but said it's about creating a better health system for Kiwis.  

"It's a difficult time, but a part of the purpose of this organisation is to be more efficient and to be able to get the resources to where they need to actually support Kiwis to have better health." 

Watch the full interview with Erica Stanford and Michael Wood in the video above.