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Millions of hours owed in annual leave compromising patient care

Health workers, struggling with heavy workloads and under pressure to do more with less, are owed almost $500 million in overdue annual leave, Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King says.

"Figures released to Labour under the official Information Act show staff at the country’s 20 DHBs are owed $465 million in annual leave and millions of hours of backed up holidays.

"We know the health sector is under the gun.  DHBs around the country are struggling to make ends meet as demand outstrips funding and face growing population cost pressures.

"At least 10 are already looking at budget blow-outs and we’re only in to the second month of the new financial year.

"Staff at the three Auckland DHBs have the most unused annual leave, with $177million owed in untaken holiday pay, while Canterbury DHB staff have than a million hours ($53.8 million) backed up. More than half the staff at MidCentral have more than four weeks unused leave.

"Our health professionals work incredibly hard, often forgoing overtime and meal breaks or working when they are sick to support their colleagues.

"These latest figures reinforce that. This is the hidden picture Jonathan Coleman doesn’t want us to know about and it should concern everyone.

"If frontline health staff are not taking annual leave, which they are entitled to, then they will be stressed and tired, and that is a recipe for disaster.

"Not only is patient care compromised, but lives could be put at risk.

"The National Government has underfunded the sector by $1.7 billion over the last six years. The workforce is carrying the burden of that and the impact is being felt across the country."