Nurses to release evidence of crisis

The nurses' union will take a ''strategic approach'' to releasing information about conditions in Dunedin and Wakari hospitals in its attempts to persuade the health board to hire more staff.

Some New Zealand Nurses Organisation members are unhappy the North Island union officials handling the situation have given few details to illustrate what the union calls a crisis.

The Southern District Health Board is downplaying the claims, saying its nursing workforce is sufficient, but it will set up a working party to look at concerns.

Industrial adviser Lesley Harry, of Hamilton, said members should raise complaints or concerns about union tactics internally.

The situation in Dunedin was ''dire'', and required urgent solutions.

''We'll take a strategic approach to how we disclose information because ultimately we want things to change,'' Ms Harry said.

The union had to be careful detailing specific concerns, because details could identify staff.

''Our discussions will take place with the DHB. We will be tabling all the evidence that we have that members have provided.

''If need be, if the DHB don't respond, we will think about our next steps.

''I think the DHB will sit up and listen.''

However, yesterday, at the board's hospital advisory committee, it appeared board members were satisfied with senior management's cost-cutting drive. Board chairman Joe Butterfield said a strategy that slashed bed nights since the middle of last year was ''good, even if the nurses' union doesn't think so''.

A report to the meeting showed the board had ''saved'' more than 2000 bed nights since the strategy started.

Nursing and midwifery director Leanne Samuel said the board would meet the union again today about the concerns.

Committee members noted that key markers of hospital health, including acute readmission rates, were improving, which indicated cost-cutting was not affecting patient care.

In response, Ms Harry said nurses told a different story than the statistics.

''They can bury their heads in the sand, but 300 members at that meeting were telling them something else.''

The union hoped the board would hire experienced nurses, and bring forward graduate nurse positions deferred to October.

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

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