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Ministry of Health confirms final job cut tally

Azaria Howell,
Publish Date
Thu, 13 Jun 2024, 4:14pm
It has been confirmed 123 roles are being cut at the Ministry of Health, a slightly reduced number than previously proposed. Photo / Mark Mitchell
It has been confirmed 123 roles are being cut at the Ministry of Health, a slightly reduced number than previously proposed. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Ministry of Health confirms final job cut tally

Azaria Howell,
Publish Date
Thu, 13 Jun 2024, 4:14pm

The Ministry of Health has signed off on its final job cut amount, as change in the public sector starts to take shape.

The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development is also confirming a loss of 26 roles, disestablishing 52 roles which are vacant.

An all-staff hui at the Ministry of Health took place at 11am today, informing workers of the decisions. Staff had been invited to individual meetings in the week prior, informing them of their fate.

The Public Service Association, which is consulted on the cuts at each agency, has confirmed 123 roles will be cut at MoH, in the final decisions announced today.

The ministry had previously proposed slashing 134 roles.

Ministry of Health director-general Dr Diana Sarfati confirmed 466 submissions were received, including 59 from groups and two from unions, understood to be the Public Service Association and the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists.

“The feedback that kaimahi provided was considered and included constructive suggestions for alternative options. This prompted different decisions from what had been proposed in a number of areas,” Sarfati said.

In a statement, the PSA confirmed the final decisions, outlined to workers, would see one in six positions impacted at the ministry.

The Ministry of Health has reversed its decision to remove the role of director at the Suicide Prevention Office.

The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development delivered final decisions to staff today, representing roughly 20 per cent of the agency’s workforce.

In a statement, the housing agency said changes to three of its business groups were confirmed, cutting 26 people from the ministry’s current workforce of around 370 staff.

“The latest cuts impact the Strategy, Insight and Governance, Policy, and Organisational Performance business groups. Further cuts to other business groups are proposed for later this year,” the Public Service Association said on the cuts to the housing authority.

The ministry has confirmed further workforce reductions are “needed” to help achieve its workforce target of 315-320 people.

Further changes are due this year.

On health, the PSA said “We welcome the ministry rethinking this decision and retaining Suicide Prevention leadership. But there is still an overall reduction in fulltime specialist staff.

“The responsibility for suicide prevention work will now be just a quarter of the workload of other staff in the mental health and addiction policy area. We hope the importance of this vital work is not diminished in this restructure,” Public Service Association assistant secretary Fleur Fitzsimons said.

The PSA claims a senior Māori adviser role will be cut from the Suicide Prevention Office.

The ministry had been tasked with a savings target of 6.5 per cent. Other agencies had been chasing the same target, or a higher 7.5 per cent, based on growth of fulltime equivalent staff in recent years.

The consultation document relating to the changes confirmed today, seen by the Herald, detailed the proposal including the disestablishment of 271 roles, more than a quarter of total positions at the ministry.

A number of roles in tobacco regulation were on the line, according to the documents. The proposal planned a restructure, adding 137 new jobs.

The final decision is different from the proposals.

Slightly fewer jobs - 123 - will be cut than proposed. It is understood 247 roles are being disestablished and 124 new roles will be created.

The consultation document shows the ministry floated the idea of trimming salaries from its top brass, but opted for the cuts instead.

It was suggested trimming top salaries would be a difficult decision, practically and legally. The ministry said it had attempted to ensure there was an appropriate proportion of managers to staff.

Ministry of Health transformation management office director Geoff Short previously confirmed staff were being consulted on four key areas: The proposed changes to group structures and positions, voluntary redundancies, the process for appointing people into new positions, and the proposal not to apply remuneration increases for those above mid-range.

In the lead-up to the final decisions, Short said it was a “difficult time” for staff.

The ministry had expected the new organisational structure to come into force from September.

Finance Minister Nicola Willis said the Budget was shifting resources out of the back office to frontline services.

“We are investing in healthcare, schools and police. We are putting New Zealanders’ money where it can make the biggest difference,” Willis said.

The Budget confirmed further savings are on the cards for the health ministry. It had a savings target of around $12.6 million, which the financial blueprints confirmed had been reprioritised to frontline services.

The Ministry of Health flagged a further $37.9m in future savings in Budget documents - equating to the $12.6 per cent average target being required for a further three financial years.

The ministry expected its forecast funding to reduce, and stated it was in a “more fiscally constrained environment”.

Sarfati said the ministry was working to support people impacted by the changes with “redeployment opportunities”.

“The total number of people who will leave the ministry as a result of these changes will not be known until after 2 September.

The ministry has been, and continues to, have support available to staff through our employee assistance programme, and a series of workshops including navigating change, financial wellbeing, CV development and interview skills,” Sarfati said, adding it was an unsettling time.

Earlier this week, further job cuts were confirmed at the Ministry of Education, bringing its total cuts tally above 700 roles.

Azaria Howell is a Wellington-based multimedia reporter with an eye across the region. She joined NZME in 2022 and has a keen interest in city council decisions, public service agency reform, and transport.

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