Staff levels unsafe: nurses

Nurses have put the new government on notice over what they say are unsafe staffing levels.

With a shortage of 4000 nurses across the country, the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) held 40 stop work meetings across New Zealand, including at Dunedin Hospital, yesterday to demand Te Whatu Ora Health New Zealand (HNZ) increases funding to the health sector and fixes the nursing supply crisis.

Dunedin nurse Tracey Young was among those calling for safer staffing levels.

"I feel like we're the Highlanders playing defence with one man down."

On a night shift there were often seven to eight patients for each nurse, she said.

Ms Young said HNZ called this "care rationing" when in fact it was unsafe.

Despite this year’s collective agreement including provisions for safe-staffing levels, Ms Young and other nurses believed more needed to be done.

NZNO chief executive Paul Goulter said the purpose of the action was to put HNZ on notice.

The stop work meetings started the campaign for the next year’s collective agreement negotiations.

"Te Whatu and the new government must meet our demands in order to ensure the wellbeing of our staff, patients and health system.

"Ultimately our patients will pay the price for hospitals that are continuously understaffed and under-resourced."

In a statement, HNZ chief people officer Andrew Slater said it would continue to work with NZNO on any matters it had raised.

"We are continually working to improve the experience of our nurses, who are a vital part of our health workforce."

Both NZNO and HNZ said no disruptions to care were expected during the stop work meetings.

By Rafael Clarke