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Nursing in New Zealand: History and Reminiscences

Chapter XIII. — Superannuation of Nurses

page 79

Chapter XIII.
Superannuation of Nurses.

At the time of the Dunedin enquiry I made the acquaintance of Mr. Mark Cohen, then editor of the Otago Daily Times, and later the Hon. Mark Cohen of the Legislative Council. He was very interested in the hospital, and in the enquiry with which I was busy. Mr. Cohen took up the question of superannuation for nurses and sought my cooperation, which I was most glad to give. He was then in the Upper House, and quite an invalid, always attended by a nurse, but devoted himself to the cause; we had many conferences and he very kindly wrote to me saying that my presentation of the need of superannuation for nurses had had great weight with the Government. It was not until after I was out of office that an Act was finally passed, as an amendment to the National Provident Act, which made it compulsory for hospital boards to insure their employees, such as the nurses in training, the trained staffs, also secretaries and other permanent officials.

The legislation for nurses provided for their being passed on from one board to another with continuity of policy, and if, after completing training, nurses left the hospital service, they could either continue payments themselves, and still have the Government contribution, or withdraw the portion contributed by themselves. Also if within eighteen months, they rejoined any hospital staff, their policy payments could be carried on by that hospital as if they had been continuously in the service. This surely appeared page 80 to promise a fair prospect of superannuation, but many girls on leaving their training schools simply withdrew the money which had been paid in for them out of their salaries, and thus cut themselves off from any benefit, and jeopardised the scheme. A very great point to the older nurses who had remained in hospitals, was that the Hospital Boards' Association had agreed to count the period of superannuation for the nurses on their staffs from the commencement of their training, irrespective of which hospital the training had been gone through. Also very generously the period on which nurses had been on war service was included.

It was hoped that in time some arrangement might be made by which private nurses might participate in these benefits, but there are many difficulties in the way. The Hon. Mark Cohen was trying to overcome some of these when his death occurred, but we must always remember his interest in nurses, and his help in obtaining what was gained.