Editorial: MidCentral survey reaction saddens
A survey of MidCentral District Health employees that revealed many of them felt overworked and understaffed should not come as a huge surprise, but the reaction to the results from several board members is genuinely startling.
A report on the results, presented to last week's DHB meeting, said that across most clinical areas and occupational groups, staff said workloads were high, staffing levels were too low, and there was an "inappropriate skill mix" in some areas.
Some staff also reported that their manager was not visible and that they did not give feedback, which contributed to staff not feeling valued.
It's widely known that working in the public health sector anywhere is often incredibly challenging, with a scarcity of resources and a seemingly inexhaustible demand for services. High stress levels and dissatisfaction with management are commonplace.
What must be even more disheartening for MidCentral staff, though, is hearing members of their board publicly question the credibility of the concerns that have been raised.
Presented with the survey report, several board members questioned whether those concerns were widely held or simply the grumblings of a disgruntled few. Board member Jack Drummond said he "wouldn't beat myself to death" over the survey results, adding, "You don't know who answered".
Dr Drummond even suggested that if the staff survey had been conducted during summer instead of winter, when it was busier, the results could have been more positive.
While other board members, including chief executive Murray Georgel and Karen Naylor, received the information with the good grace staff members would expect from the organisation's leaders, Dr Drummond was, sadly, not alone in his scepticism.
He and the other board members inclined to take the critical feedback from staff with a grain of salt would appear to be the very personification of some of the work issues raised. Questioning or minimising staff concerns after seeking their feedback will only discourage them from offering further input, and problems will compound.
MidCentral should be commended for reaching out to staff and seeking their views. However, listening is one thing, and hearing is quite another.
MidCentral is doing a lot of good things and, like all organisations, there are things it can do better. It has been told by staff what those things are, and the board must show the leadership required to seize those opportunities to improve.