Let’s help them now so they can help us later
If Covid can teach us anything it is to protect our health workers
From Teanau’s desk Teanau Tuiono is a Green list MP based in Palmerston North.
Ihear everyone talking about getting “back to normal”, the “before the pandemic” times. But to be honest, I don’t even know what that looks like any more. Instead, I see a chance for us to forge ahead with a new way of doing things. Over the past few weeks and months, we’ve seen the Government shift and change in — what looks to most people — a reactionary way to political groups and business interests wanting to return to the old ways. We won’t ever return to normal, pre-pandemic times. We have to plan for the future, not only for our tamariki and the current outbreak, but to prepare for new variants, the inevitable second wave of Omicron cases, and for the health and wellbeing of our communities. A strong public health system also means protecting the wellbeing of its healthcare workers, so they can protect us when we need it. Making sure they are paid fairly and treated equally is very important. We should all be mindful that these are people who dedicate their working lives to keeping us safe and well, and who have gone above and beyond during a global crisis. Right now, 10,000 allied health workers are taking work-to-rule industrial action because of unfair pay and working conditions. Allied health workers are often the frontline health professionals we interact with most, especially in the regions where you are more likely to drop into a community health centre or your local pharmacy than a big hospital with all the specialist doctors and nurses. These are our lab technicians and pharmacists, our social workers, and our occupational therapists, alcohol and drug clinicians, contact tracers, audiologists, and sterile service workers — all underpaid, overworked, and undervalued by their employers at the DHBs. Industrial action and striking are last-resort measures and a signal to us all of how desperately bad things have gotten for these crucial health workers, many of whom are not even paid a living wage. We also have to deal with longstanding systemic issues because a strong public health response in the face of a pandemic includes breaking the chains of poverty, massively upscaling the build of public housing, lifting benefits to liveable levels, and implementing rent controls. So if you see the workers out and about, make sure you show your solidarity. Teanau Tuiono