Have your say in local body elections: local body elections, including for district health boards, get underway next month. It is vital nurses vote for their own sake, the sake of their patients/clients and for the sake of the health sector.
Subject: Nurses (Political activity)
Health boards (Elections)
Author: O'Connor, Teresa
Pub Date: 08/01/2010
Publication: Name: Kai Tiaki: Nursing New Zealand Publisher: New Zealand Nurses' Organisation Audience: Trade Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health; Health care industry Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2010 New Zealand Nurses' Organisation ISSN: 1173-2032
Issue: Date: August, 2010 Source Volume: 16 Source Issue: 7
Topic: Event Code: 290 Public affairs
Product: Product Code: 8043100 Nurses NAICS Code: 621399 Offices of All Other Miscellaneous Health Practitioners
Geographic: Geographic Scope: New Zealand Geographic Code: 8NEWZ New Zealand
Accession Number: 236247990
Full Text: Local body elections, including elections for the country's 20 district health boards (DHBs), get underway next month. Voting is by postal ballot and the elections run between Friday, September 17 and midday on Saturday, October g.

The DHB elections give communities the opportunity to elect seven representatives to each of the 20 boards. Each board also has up to four members appointed by the Minister of Health [Tony Ryall] and the Minister also appoints the chair and deputy chair.

Unlike the elections for regional, city and district councils and community boards, which are run using the first-past-the-post electoral system, the DHB elections are run under the single transferable vote (STV) system. Under this system, the voters rank their candidates in order of preference, writing "1" beside the name of their first choice, "2" beside the name of their second choice etc. Voters can rank as many or as few candidates as they wish. Once a candidate has reached the "STV quota" they are declared elected and their excess votes are then re-distributed among the other candidates, in order of voter preference.

The 'STV quota'

The STV quota is determined through dividing the number of valid voting papers in a DHB's area by the number of vacancies (seven), plus one. Thus if there were 80,000 eligible voters in a DHB region, the STV quota for that region would be 10,000 votes.

Early last month a survey by the Electoral Enrolment Centre, the body charged with ensuring as many eligible voters as possible are enrolled, revealed an "unbelievable amount of ignorance" about the local body elections. Centre manager Murray Wicks said two out of three people didn't know when the elections would be held, and nearly one third didn't know how to cast their vote. Just two percent knew this year's election ended on October 9. The survey of 474 people aged over 18 had a margin of error of plus or minus 6.2 percent.

Wicks said he expected the Level of awareness of the elections to have increased considerably now the enrolment drive was well underway.

Over the Last month, the centre has been promoting the need to enrol, particularly to first-time voters and those who have moved house and not updated their details. "Around 150,000 people will have moved house in the Last year and if they haven't updated their enrolment details, they will not be able to vote in this year's elections," Wicks said.

Late Last month, one in ten people eligible to vote was not enrolled. Enrolment forms are available from www.elections.org.nz, by free texting your name and address to 3676, from PostShops, or by calling 0800 ENROL NOW (0800 367656). You can check your details and enrol on Line at the website. The electoral role closes on August 20. Voting papers will be delivered to those enrolled from September 17-22. Voting closes at midday on Saturday, October 9, by which time voting papers must be with the electoral officer.

By Late last month, there were approximately 47,500 nurses enrolled to vote.

NZNO president Nano Tunnicliff urges nurses to vote in the local body and DHB elections. "It is important nurses vote in the DHB elections to ensure a broad range of skilled candidates are elected."

She does not think there is a good understanding of the fact DHB members are accountable to the Minister of Health, not the communities that elected them. Tunnicliff thinks it is important DHBs provide feedback to their communities through regular updates in local papers and by meeting with relevant community groups.

Despite the fact individual DHB members are accountable to the Minister and not their communities, Tunnicliff believes they can still influence decisions and outcomes. "Elected members provide stewardship, direction setting and monitor the DHB's performance against its annual plan and strategic goals."

She believes nurses bring particular skills to DHBs, including resilience, an excellent understanding of health services and service provision, communication, advocacy, strategic thinking, adaptability and fiscally responsibility.

NZNO's professional services manager Susanne Trim said NZNO's Social Policy Statement recognised the impact of social policy on the health and well-being of New Zealanders. "The importance of nurses exerting their influence on the development of social policy, through exercising their vote, cannot be over emphasised. Voting in local body and DHB elections is an important way of influencing policy development that has a direct impact on the health of the population," she said.

NZNO organising services manager Cee Payne echoes Tunnicliffs and Trim's call for nurses to vote. "It is vital NZNO members vote in local and national elections to demonstrate their commitment to the democratic process. As nurses and health workers, we understand the process of informed consent when dealing with our patients. Voting is akin to that process, in that we are being asked, as voters, to give consent to others, to make decisions on our behalf. If we don't express our view, then effectively we are giving away our consent and allowing others to make decisions on our behalf, with no direction from us."

Role as patient advocates

She also believes voting is part of nurses' role as patient advocates. "Social issues such as overcrowded housing, poverty, alcohol and tobacco abuse have a detrimental effect on individual and family health."

Payne believes NZNO members also have a role in advocating for good policies in workplaces.

Payne said nurses and health workers had a wealth of knowledge about how the health system worked, particularly from a patient/ client perspective. "They can add real value to decision-making in DHBs. NZNO encourages members to consider standing and offers an endorsement process where those members are supporting the kaupapa of NZNO."

* Next month Kai Tiaki Nursing New Zealand will speak to nurses who have been DHB members.

By co-editor Teresa O'Connor
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