Nurse staffing worry

The nurses' union is disappointed the Southern District Health Board's answer to fears Dunedin is in the midst of a nursing staffing crisis is to set up a working party, rather than hire more nurses.

New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) associate professional services manager Hilary Graham-Smith, of Hamilton, said delegates were not entirely happy with the board's response.

Members wanted immediate action in the form of hiring new staff, not a ''talkfest'' and a new working party.

The board this week downplayed the concerns, saying its nursing staffing levels were ''suitable'', and it would work through concerns with nurses.

Asked yesterday if the union had exaggerated the problem, Mrs Graham-Smith said the union had not.

''You get 300 nurses along to a stop-work meeting. That to me is pretty indicative of some serious concerns,'' she said.

''Nurses don't turn up to those meetings just for the hell of it.''

About 300 nurses attended a stop-work meeting in Dunedin last week to put concerns to management about working double-shifts, missing meal breaks, and rationing patient care at Dunedin and Wakari Hospitals.

The union would meet board management again next week, and would further press the issue.

Readers' comments on the Otago Daily Times website yesterday criticised the NZNO's Dunedin branch for failing to stand up to the health board.

One comment said the Public Service Association (PSA) was better at handling health board issues on behalf of members.

''We will do whatever we can. We absolutely believe that there is an issue here to be resolved. But I'm not sure what the PSA would do differently, to be perfectly honest,'' Mrs Graham-Smith said in response to the comments of the ODT website.

She said the union favoured talking and negotiation, because it was sometimes counterproductive to be too critical.

''Speaking out doesn't necessarily achieve good outcomes either, because it gets people's backs up, and kind of closes the door on negotiation, whereas we would prefer to keep that door open ... to get some sort of satisfactory resolution.''

On the staffing crisis issue, NZNO has directed media comment through North Island union officials, rather than through Dunedin NZNO officials.

Nursing crisis

I would suggest that the NZNO has completely lost touch with its members . Especially after reading the comments by the Hamilton Manager that "nurses not entirely happy withe the board response"

Nurses are furious, and have no faith in either the DHB, or the local NZNO.

It is interesting to note, all comments have been referred to to North Island union officals, and not the Dunedin office.

Local nurse

Mrs Graham-Smith is speaking from GHQ in Wellington I presume, far removed from the sentiment here in Dunedin where my discussions with other nurses and delegates suggest that the local NZNO workers have a cosy relationship with SDHB management. This relationship has meant that beds have been closed, critical nursing positions left unfilled, anaesthetic procedures at the Day Surgery Unit curtailed and plummeting moral amongst my fellow nurses. What has the local NZNO office done about this? They have asked NZNO nursing delegates to keep quiet as the SDHB management know what they are doing. Does anybody really believe that a person imported from Scotland on a salary higher than that of the Prime Minister  in the position of CEO of the SDHB  with no history or allegiance to this region will be helpful in this crises? Carol Heatley has one agenda and that is fulfill the edicts of the Minister of Health under this silly executive management model of health management.


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