Nursing vacancies in Dunedin Hospital's emergency
department will be filled by the end of the month, the Southern
District Health Board has told the College of Emergency Nurses.
The board also said it wanted to improve its handling of
patient demand peaks.
The college, part of the New Zealand Nurses Organisation,
said through a union spokeswoman it would not comment. It
declined to release the letter sent to the health board last
month about bed closures, patient safety, emergency
department (ED) patient volumes, and long recruitment times
The health board has released its February 28 reply to the
Otago Daily Times.
In the letter, chief executive Carole Heatly said the board
cut nursing staff when it closed beds, but used vacancies to
avoid redundancies. This created a time lag that would be
fixed by the end of March.
''It was imperative that any nurse vacancies were held for a
very short time to enable the redeployment process for any
''However, this process did delay approval to recruit into
vacancies for a very short time but recruitment requests are
now being promptly authorised.''
The DHB's money-saving bed closures over the warmer months
had been the ''correct decision'', and had not caused longer
waiting times in the ED. ''The breaches [of the six-hour
waiting time limit] on the Dunedin site are predominantly
related to other issues that are being worked through.''
Addressing patient safety, Ms Heatly said the board wanted to
improve handling of peak patient times.
''We do believe that organisationally there needs to be an
improved response to patient surge and this is currently
being worked on.
''We are also working on a staff survey for the emergency
department to further understand the concerns.''
Ms Heatly rejected comparisons with the Mid Staffordshire
tragedy in the United Kingdom, where between 400 and 1200
patients died because of substandard care.
''It is important when referring to documents such as the Mid
Staffordshire report that correct factual correlations are
made. Of note, where nurses have subsequently, for example,
been investigated by the UK nursing council and courts in Mid
Staffordshire, the findings have involved poor nursing
attitude/behaviour and serious professional breaches ...''
Ms Heatly, who formerly worked for England's National Health
Service, said the Southern DHB was in a very different
position, and carefully monitored incidents, complaints, and