Pay equity - at the heart of the hospital

Administrative staff add value to the hospital team – it’s time their contribution was properly valued.

Grey Hospital members

Admin staff at Grey Hospital on the West Coast

Hospitals conjure up images of people wearing white coats and stethoscopes. Little thought is given to the administrative staff – mainly women – who make sure the theatre is booked for your operation and there is a complete record of your medical history.

Hospital admin staff work at the heart of the hospital in a wide range of skilled occupations.  They are vital to the smooth running of our hospitals. Things would soon grind to a halt without them.      

And yet, they have every reason to feel they are singled out for unfair treatment.

For instance, they are the only hospital group not to have national pay rates and employment conditions. Rates of pay for the same work vary wildly across the country. Many hospitals pay well below the living wage.  

To make matters worse, the government imposed a cap on employing admin staff in 2009. Hospitals were told to cut numbers even though the demand for admin services has continued to grow.

It’s led to excessive workloads for admin staff and the inefficiency of clinical staff having to pick up some of the administration work.

A PSA survey last year found that nearly half of admin staff are stressed by work overload as vacancies are left unfilled and staff on leave aren’t covered.

Ian Powell, the executive director of the Association of Senior Medical Specialists, says the cap on admin and clerical staff is affecting the work of doctors in public hospitals.

“It’s placing extra pressure on senior doctors at a time when they are already dealing with the effecctos of long-standing shortages. Hospital specialists value the work of clerical and administration staff, which helps to free up doctors to spend more time with their patients and on other clinical duties.”


It’s time to value admin staff

The PSA campaign – At the Heart of the Hospital – is about properly valuing the skills and contribution of hospital admin staff and lifting the cap so that workloads are manageable and hospitals are run efficiently.

Despite all its talk of wage improvements, the government has set a limit of 0.7 percent on pay increases for admin and other hospital staff.

This election, we’ll be talking to candidates and asking them if that’s fair and if it makes sense to cut admin staff numbers and have highly-paid doctors spending time on admin tasks.

If you work in a hospital, talk to your local organiser or an admin delegate about ways you can support the campaign.


Admin staff speak out


Not enough admin support
The admin staffing cap is making matters worse. Senior medical officers don’t have enough administration support so they can concentrate on being doctors. I couldn’t do what they do but I can do their admin tasks quicker, more efficiently and more productively than they can.
Tracey Glennie

Many earn below the living wage
We’re told by the government that everyone is only being offered a 0.7% increase because of the current financial circumstances. Then you hear that politicians are getting a 3% increase! Many admin staff are earning below the living wage. There seems to be a clear devaluing of the administrative function within our hospitals, largely, I feel, because this work is done almost exclusively by women.
Nancy McShane

I’m worth more
I type the surgical procedure and post-op instructions for about 35 patients a day. Every day has its challenges, but at the end of the day, I know I’ve done the best job I can. With the knowledge and experience needed to be a highly-skilled medical secretary, I’m worth more than the $39,655 maximum salary my DHB pays me.
Sue Langford

Because we’re women
My job includes managing the waiting lists and bookings for the outpatient clinic. I love the variety and working in a hospital. But what I don’t like is the poor pay. I think it’s because of the way women are perceived. I don’t believe for one minute that, for the work I do, they would even think about paying a man that amount of money.
Sheree Mason


It’s not a good situation
The cap on staffing numbers has not been good for us. There’s no cover for sick leave or annual leave so other staff in already busy jobs have to pick up extra work. At the same time, the workload is increasing to meet ministry guidelines, with extra clinics and theatre lists to be arranged. We do our best to support our clinical staff but they are waiting longer for clinical typing and other work. We need adequate staffing and we need appropriate remuneration.
Phyllis Collins


This article is from the June 2014 issue of the PSA Journal. You can read back issues of the Journal by clicking here.