Kate Billing

NZ’s HRT Shortage & Our Workplaces

For over two years, there has been ongoing disruption and massive shortages in supply of life changing HRT/MHT medications to New Zealand women. This chronic issue has now reached crisis point.

On a daily basis I’m hearing from women about the stress, panic and anxiety, hours of extra work, frequent humiliation, and very real fear they face trying to track down and obtain access to their own prescribed medications. And I’m one of them.

In a recent Radio New Zealand interview, Hawkes Bay GP and women’s health advocate Dr. Samantha Newman shared insights from her new survey into the benefits of HRT/MHT and the impacts for people of the shortage on their physical and mental health, relationships and workplace experience:

“The HRT patch shortage has hit so hard that 20 percent of women have had to take time off work while others have reported thoughts of suicide.

A new survey of over 2000 HRT users revealed that the mental health of 80 percent of participants had been affected, while 70 percent said their physical health had suffered.”

Survey responses show some women are unable to work or parent effectively due to the lack of access to their prescribed medications. They are getting sick mentally with anxiety, depression and becoming suicidal, or physically ill with sweating, heart palpitations, severe fatigue and joint pain.

Dr .Newman is calling for urgent action from Pharmac and the Ministry of Health to find other options and offer education and support to all those involved including doctors, pharmacists, and the general public.

“We need the government to understand that this medication is not a nice-to-have or a lifestyle choice – it’s not a supplement, or a vitamin. It’s vital medicine and without it, people are in agony. I’m deeply worried for the mental, emotional and physical health of HRT users. Will it take a death before the government acts?

With 500,000+ women in the peri/menopause life stage in paid employment in New Zealand, it’s not hard to extrapolate out what that means in terms of human beings being negatively impacted on a daily basis in our workplaces and homes.

Some of them will be in your organisation.

You may be one of them.  

QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO REFLECT ON:

  • Do you know how many women are being impacted by this shortage in your organisation?
  • What could your organisation be doing to show awareness, understanding and support for them in this current crisis?

 

A FEW INSPIRED ACTIONS YOU COULD TAKE:

  1. If menopause education is something that you’ve yet to start, or you’re looking for additional resources to share with your people, The New Zealand Herald’s menopause web series ‘Blood, Sweat & Tears: The Unspoken Truth About Menopause’ (a 45 min watch) is now out from behind their paywall and available FREE on their Youtube channel.
  2. You can listen to the full 16 min interview with Dr. Newman on Radio New Zealand HERE along with the accompanying article.
  3. You can complete Dr. Newman’s survey to share your own experience and/or share it with the women in your organisation/network so they can add theirs.
  4. You can add your signature to the 14,000+ already on Linda Dear’s petition to Pharmac to get transdermal estrogen gels funded as an alternative treatment to patches (where the specific shortage is) and share the link with others.

 

And if you’re one of the thousands of women being impacted by this unconscionable situation, I know this is scary and SUPER sucky and I wish it could be over in a hurry.

Hang in there, ask for help, use your organisation’s EAP services for support, talk with your partner, talk with your manager, your colleagues and your team to let them know what’s going on, and seek temporary accommodations where necessary and possible.

Feeling inspired to play your part in elevating, enriching, and amplifying the workplace conversation about peri/menopause to improve awareness, understanding and support? Then come and join me in the Menopause@Work (NZ) Group on LinkedIn.

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