Nurses push for crisis plan
Nurses at Dunedin Hospital have given the Southern District Health Board management until Monday to come up with a crisis plan in response to their concerns.
The demand came after a stopwork meeting, involving about 300 nurses from the city's two hospitals, Dunedin and Wakari, yesterday.
New Zealand Nurses Organisation acting industrial services manager David Wait confirmed delegates representing staff had presented the demand to DHB chief executive Carole Heatly and executive director of nursing Leanne Samuel.
He spoke of "serious concerns" about staff shortages and the impact of the shortages on patient care.
"NZNO members told the DHB leaders that many nurses were working overtime, double shifts and having no meal breaks and many part-time staff were working more shifts," Wait said.
"They made it very clear the staffing crisis was affecting patient care. Some nurses feel they are having to make choices about what care they can provide and what they can't, and that's an unacceptable situation for any nurse to be placed in, or any patient to experience."
The NZNO said the DHB could not afford to ignore the concerns.
If the DHB failed to act on the concerns, which he believed would be unlikely, that would be something for NZNO delegates to discuss next week, Wait said.
The Dunedin meeting was the largest nurses' meeting in the city for a long time, he said.
"The number of nurses who attended is an indication of the scale of the problem and how seriously nurses are taking it. The meeting was called against a background of delayed recruitment of staff who leave, the reopening of some previously closed beds without enough staff, and more people presenting at the emergency department."
The staffing crisis was most acute at Dunedin and Wakari Hospitals but there were staffing difficulties across the DHB. The delegates had scheduled another meeting for Monday, he said.
"Delegates are wanting DHB management to present a draft plan, which includes nurses and NZNO, for dealing with the staffing crisis."
"When you have 300 nurses coming together to talk about this kind of thing, if that doesn't get your head spinning as a DHB manager then you need to have a bit of a think," Wait said.
The nurses' action would have been "a terrible eye-opener for the district health board", he said.
Nurses Organisation associate professional services manager Hilary Graham-Smith said nurses "wanted to be heard and must be heard" when they had concerns about patient care.
"Nurses are the DHB's biggest work force and want to be part of the solution to staffing problems."
The demand was not an ultimatum but a show of strength, Graham-Smith said.
"I think it was more about telling the DHB 'it's time you listened and it's time you included us in the discussion around what the solutions might be'."
Southern DHB Executive Director Nursing and Midwifery, Leanne Samuel, said the DHB would work with the nurses to find solutions.
"Yesterday's meeting with NZNO delegates was a good opportunity to hear directly from the DHB's nursing workforce.
"We value their hard work, dedication and their input into these issues.
"We have undertaken to work with them and NZNO to better understand these issues and help resolve their concerns and look forward to more engagement on the issues they have raised."