Health board misses safe staffing deadline

The Southern District Health Board, like 14 other DHBs, has failed to meet the deadline to implement safe staffing requirements.

DHBs had until July 1 to introduce care capacity demand management (CCDM), and meet staffing requirements signed up to by the government, DHBs and the New Zealand Nurses Organisation in 2018 as part of the settlement of collective contract negotiations.

However, almost every DHB has struggled to recruit the nurses to fill their rosters, a situation exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic choking off the supply of overseas nurses.

A new report on CCDM nursing progress shows the SDHB is at 80% of full implementation, compared with a national average of 76%.

It ranks third out of the six largest DHBs.

Meeting CCDM requirements is a twofold process, as DHBs have to both hire extra nurses and draft rosters to show those staff are on the ward, and provision has been made for leave, illness, staff turnover and training.

Jane Wilson. Photo: ODT files
Jane Wilson. Photo: ODT files
Chief nursing and midwifery officer Jane Wilson said rosters had now been calculated for most wards and work on the remainder, which was interrupted by Covid-19, was expected to be completed next month.

‘‘Two other wards, the high dependency unit and Te Puna Wai Ora (intensive care unit) will not be done as staffing standards are based on Australasian critical care standards and are therefore excluded.’’

Southland Hospital had already tested its rosters, mental health and addiction wards were to test the new rosters this week, and maternity’s turn was next week, Ms Wilson said.

‘‘It was expected that the DHB would have met all the necessary full time equivalent calculation criteria this quarter, in time for the next quarterly report.

‘‘However due to strike contingency planning, strike action, current Covid lockdown levels and related response work interrupting progress, this date will not be met.’’

A full-time appointment had been made to assist with nurse recruitment, and a special focus was being made on hiring more health care assistants, she said.

The SDHB was looking for 29 FTE nurses and had recruited 10 to date, she said.

Maternity services and mental health also have to meet CCDM requirements: maternity was recorded at 60% of implementation in the latest report and mental health at 77%.

Allied health does not have to meet CCDM requirements but is measured in national reports, and the SDHB ranked 14th of 20 DHBS, its implementation percentage being just 26%.

Board chairman Pete Hodgson questioned why more priority was not being put on allied health and midwifery.

Chief executive Chris Fleming said allied health was a concern, but nursing and midwifery had to be addressed as it was both an industrial settlement obligation and required by the Ministry of Health.

Allied health is another area with recruitment issues, and for physiotherapists alone about 90 positions are now empty nationwide, the board was told.

mike.houlahan@odt.co.nz

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