By Emily Norman

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Underfunding of the health system is resulting in less time and quality care for patients.

That’s according to a health administrative staff who work in Wairarapa.

Two hundred life-sized cut-outs of health professionals were lined up outside Wairarapa Hospital yesterday morning, symbolising “missing” staff nationwide.

On each cut-out, numbers were attached citing 1000 missing support staff, 400 missing paramedics, 8600 nurses, 2800 doctors, 4000 Allied Health professionals, and 3300 missing administration staff.

The protest was part of the Public Service Association’s Yes We Care campaign, which aims to shed light on new survey results showing that 90 per cent of New Zealand health workers feel understaffed.

Ngaire Clarke, who works in a health administration role in Wairarapa said the biggest effect of underfunding was the stress put on health staff to do “more jobs in less time”.

“Underfunding really affects us through stress,” she said.

“I found over the years that we work under more stress by being given more and more jobs to do in less time.

“Our casual staff are not always on board when we’re sick, so a lot of the time admin staff are working when they are not well because they’re worried about not getting cover.”

She said it all resulted in less time for patients.

“Extra funding would really help because we could get more casuals on board to help us with administration.”

Another woman who works in health administration in Wairarapa said there were a lot of stress-related illnesses that health staff suffered because of pressures from underfunding.

She said people who worked in the health field “really care and want to provide the care” for patients, but feel “lousy” because they cannot do this due to limited staff numbers.

Masterton nurse Trish Wilkinson also turned out to the protest, sharing her plans of a proposed not-for-profit community health centre based in central Masterton that would accommodate to the growing patient population.

She said health centres around Wairarapa “couldn’t open their books until they got more staff to take on that load”.

The proposed health centre, Manaaki Health Wairarapa, would act as a satellite practice to ease the load on existent health centres, she said.

“It’s a win-win for patients in the area.”

YesWeCare.nz is a new community and health workforce coalition campaigning for better health funding.

Emergency nurse Nico Woodward, of Auckland, was helping with the protest yesterday, and said health underfunding was New Zealand’s biggest health risk.

“I get as frustrated and angry as patients and families with emergency department delays,” he said.

“Not being able to care for someone, when you know you could if you were staffed properly, is distressing.”

The Council of Trade Unions (CTU) estimates the government has underfunded health by more than $1.85 billion.