The Southern District Health Board says it replaced senior
nursing staff who left its Dunedin emergency department and
rejects claims from a Labour MP who says the departures left
it short of experienced staff.
Dunedin North Labour MP Dr David Clark said the loss of more
than a dozen nurses in the six months to March resulted in a
lack of senior nurses available for emergencies.
''More than a dozen senior emergency department nurses
resigned between September 2013 and March 2014.
''A disproportionate number of the remaining senior staff are
in management roles and no longer available for on-the-spot
emergency care,'' Dr Clark said.
Earlier this month, Dr Clark released figures purporting to
show nurses were caring for up to 10 patients during busy
night shifts in the department.
Southern District Health Board patient services acting
director Sharon Mason said in an emailed response experienced
nurses from other parts of the hospital had transferred to
the department to fill gaps.
The board also recruited externally, and there were no
registered nurse vacancies in the ED.
She confirmed 13 nurses left in the six months to March, but
said only nine of them were senior nurses. Of the 13, two
were on fixed-term contracts that ended. Another nine left
''due to relocation'', six of them because their partner's
job moved to another centre.
Three nurses stayed with the health board, moving to other
parts of the hospital. ''As a snapshot in time, this reflects
a higher-than-average turnover in Dunedin ED, but please note
the majority of staff who left to follow their partners to
Asked how many nurses the department had, Ms Mason said it
had about 55 ''during the period in question'', but did not
say how many it had now.
''All nurses commencing employment in Dunedin ED undergo a
full orientation and training programme supported by the
emergency department nurse educator.''
New Zealand Nurses Organisation organiser Lorraine Lobb said
the union had been concerned by gaps in the ED nursing
rosters for most of this year. There had been improvement
recently, she said.
''In the meantime, ED staff have been working extra shifts,
and are stretched and tired.
''The funding of the DHB is probably not adequate to staff
these areas in the manner to which our members would like.''
ED presentations had been high all year, and had not followed
the usual seasonal ebbs and flows, placing more pressure on
staff, Ms Lobb said.
''Members have reported that there has been a turnover in ED,
but I can't confirm whether they've all been senior staff. I
just hope that they've all done exit interviews,'' Ms Lobb