Yes We Care

That’s why we’re standing together for health


Chris, a 56-year-old PSA member, approached his GP in March 2015 after experiencing strange bowel movements. It took ten months to get a colonoscopy as he was “low-priority”. When he finally got care, it was world class.

The problem was it was too late.

The hospital found an inoperable cancerous tumour. An earlier diagnosis could have saved his life.
Chris doesn’t blame his carers who he says were passionate and did the best they could. They’re part of the nine in 10 people working in health who feel under-resourced.

Chris’s story is shocking. Sadly, as I found out, his story isn’t uncommon.

Everyone deserves to get the care they need when they need it

In March, I travelled 6,000 km across New Zealand talking to locals about health underfunding. Nico, an emergency nurse, joined me on the YesWeCare.Nz roadshow. We visited 36 towns over 28 days from Bluff to Cape Reinga.

In each town, volunteers helped us set up 200 life-sized cutouts of doctors, nurses and other health workers. Each cutout represents 100 health workers missing due to underfunding.

Our campaign launched on the front page of the Dominion Post and Newshub. It appeared in 33 local papers, on dozens of radio stories and on TV.

We spoke to more than fifty people in person and hundreds more online. We made daily videos to chronicle locals stories, including PSA members Theodora and Patrice.

10% of Kiwis can’t get the surgery they need

Thousands of Kiwis live with chronic pain because they can’t get the surgery they need.

Two years ago specialists diagnosed Theodora McTeigue with Spondylitis. The disease causes chronic back pain. Her specialist told her not to bother going to a pain clinic because the waiting list was too long.

Theodora is forced to take a cocktail of 12 different drugs every day to manage her pain. She needs regular blood tests to check if the drugs are causing damage to her liver and kidneys.

Her pain is crippling. She must sit to ease pain and gets little sleep each night. She now suffers from depression.

Theodora couldn't afford insurance and had to stop what little cover she used to have. She works as much as possible in her minimum-wage caregiving job, but it makes the pain worse.

That is, until we won our historic equal pay case for support workers. She says it’s going to be life-changing.

Mental health services are in crisis

Mental health worker Patrice Harrex spoke about her son Brad, who died from suicide in 2010.
He passed away two days after leaving Dunedin Hospital emergency psychiatric services. He told staff he wanted to kill himself. He was 25.

The coroner’s report said he received suboptimal care, but Patrice blames underfunding, not staff. She believes staff do the best they can with what they’ve got.

Her son’s death inspired her to become a mental health worker. She says funding problems haven’t changed since her son’s death. Patrice says it is “torture” seeing hospitals turn away struggling families because of a lack of resources.

We’re making mental health a key election issue

Since the roadshow, we’ve continued to tell underfunding stories, particularly in mental health.
If you talk to anyone involved in mental health, they’ll tell you the issues in the media aren’t new. Our shocking suicide statistics aren’t new. Staff have been overworked for years. The gap between mental health need and funding has been growing for a decade.

So what’s different now?

  1. More people working in health are speaking up,
  2. Patients are sharing personal stories people can connect with, and
  3. We’re working with other community groups to boost our message.

We have an unprecedented opportunity to make real change for people affected by mental health issues.

But we need to maintain and increase the pressure

There is widespread agreement there is a mental health crisis. Workers, service users, the public and opposition politicians agree. But the Government is in wilful denial. 77% of Kiwis support an urgent independent inquiry into mental health. The Government has refused to launch one.

Prime Minister Bill English accepts it is a key political issue. In May he said the Government would give an extra $224 million to mental health over four years.​

Except they aren’t. $100m of this money comes from funds to maintain currently inadequate levels of all services, and that pool of is already $300m short of what hospitals need. Behind the smoke and mirrors, mental health services will only get an extra $18m a year. That’s a measly 1.2% increase in funding. It needs 7.3% to stand still.

Funding isn’t keeping up with our ageing and growing population, or with increasing demand for mental health services. This means more Kiwis are going to miss out on the care they need. According to a new independent report, the Government has underfunded health by $2.3b since 2009.

When we pointed this out in the media, Health Minister Jonathan Coleman dismissed our comments as typical union posturing.

A few days later, we released documents showing the Ministry of Health has the same concerns. The Ministry said hospitals needed $645m to cover population changes in 2016/2017. They got a quarter of a billion less than that.

It took us a year to get this information, and the Ombudsman had to get involved to force its release.
Christchurch provides a local example of what this means.

Since the 2011 earthquakes, emergency department mental health admissions have increased by 70%.

In 2016/2017 the DHB used $40m of non-mental health allocated funds to pay for mental health services.

The Government announced that Canterbury DHB would get an extra $39m in 2017/2018 for all its services.

The Government is letting Christchurch down, again.

We need your help

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By Simon Oosterman