Some nurses are becoming ''seasonal workers'' at the
Southern District Health Board and the nursing workforce is
''dispirited'' by cost cutting, senior doctors' union Otago
president Dr Chris Wisely says.
However, a board spokesman said casual nurses had always been
used to manage demand and their hours fluctuated, depending
on the need for them.
The board is cutting bed numbers over summer, which it says
is feasible because demand drops in the warmer months.
As well as changes to demand for casual nurses, the board was
using unfilled vacancies, and taking fewer graduate nurses,
to save $1.8 million in Dunedin from seasonal bed reductions
in general wards.
''People who have mortgages to pay will be on different
working schedules at different times of the year,'' Dr Wisely
Dr Wisely's disagreement is not with management - Southern
was a ''great DHB'' - and he believed the cuts were driven
''We seem to be a bit of a target down in Dunedin, for some
reason. I don't know why.''
He put this view to the man in charge of the health sector at
the senior doctors' recent annual conference in Wellington.
Appearing at the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists
conference, Health Minister Tony Ryall seemed ''annoyed'' by
''I said: 'You're turning them into seasonal workers', and
[Mr Ryall] repeated that a couple of times. He was quite
Mr Ryall explained fewer nurses were needed over summer
because services were quieter, Dr Wisely said.
Southern hospital doctors were concerned about their nursing
''We feel really strongly for them, and I want our hospital
to work well. Everybody does.
''It's not on. You can't paddle a canoe by taking out the
Southern DHB nursing and midwifery director Leanne Samuel
said wards were properly staffed, with the right number of
nurses to look after patients.
''We are constantly monitoring patient acuity and match the
resources to ensure patient and staff safety.
''We are keeping our nursing resources well managed in terms
of vacancy management, granting annual leave, especially to
those with high entitlements, and how we are deploying
A spokeswoman for Mr Ryall said the Southern DHB had 143 more
nurses under the National-led Government. Questions about
changes to rosters should be directed to the board, she said.
Board chief executive Carole Heatly told all staff in an
email recently the cuts would improve services because beds
would be used for ''people who really need them''.
Part of a plan to save $15.6 million this financial year, the
cost-saving strategy includes a review of a Wakari Hospital
Dr Wisely, a board psychiatrist, said the number of beds in
mental health ward 11 would be halved, from 24 to 12, a
permanent move. Weekend hours for community service mental
health nurses were also being reduced, ''which is tough,
because we use those weekend nurses to try to keep people out
Responding to the mental health cuts, patient services
director Lexie O'Shea said staff were being consulted before
a decision was made about bed numbers in ward 11.
The move was in line with the board's mental health plan,
which emphasised community care.