Stop-work by nurses over concerns

Dunedin nurses will hold a stop-work meeting next week to put clinical safety concerns to senior health board managers.

It was an opportunity for union members to speak directly to Southern District Health Board management, New Zealand Nurses Organisation organiser Lorraine Lobb said yesterday.

Concerns included budget-driven seasonal bed cuts, although Ms Lobb did not want to go into details before the meeting on Monday at 4pm.

''I want the management to listen to the nurses' stories.''

She confirmed some nurses felt cost-cutting had compromised clinical safety.

''We all know that the DHB has to save money, and I guess it's about how that's done ... and then reassuring our membership that it can be done with them feeling safe in their practice and knowing that they're giving good patient care.''

She acknowledged some members felt the union had not been vocal enough about the cuts.

Ms Lobb was unhappy with coverage in the Otago Daily Times, including reported comments from the senior doctors' union about effects of the cuts on the nursing workforce.

''There's no doubt some members out there believe that we should do our business through the ODT. And I know there is, because I've met them recently.''

Asked if the union should be more transparent, she said members could readily access information about what the union was doing to press their concerns.

Patient feedback remained positive about experiences in Dunedin Hospital and Wakari Hospital, she said.

Of reported comments by representatives of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS), she said: ''I don't always think it's helpful for them to comment on nursing matters, no. Because we don't discuss their issues''.

ASMS executive director Ian Powell, contacted for a response, said the nurses' union was being ''overly precious''.

''We have a right to comment on the risks to patient care of bed cuts.

''One of the consequences of bed cuts is nurse staffing levels. The issues are interwoven and it is impossible not to mention this as an effect of the cuts.

''Neither doctors nor nurses have a monopoly on concern for patient care,'' Mr Powell said. Bed reductions affected Southland, too, but no stop-work meeting was planned there.

Chief executive Carole Heatly and nursing and midwifery director Leanne Samuel would attend Monday's one-hour meeting at Dunedin Hospital.

In an emailed statement, Mrs Samuel said she welcomed the opportunity to attend.

''The absolute priority for the DHB is we provide the best possible care for our patients. Our new way of working sees us adjusting beds to meet patient demands on a daily basis.

''Over the summer, 39 beds have been reduced - eight in Invercargill and 31 in Dunedin - with the process going well with minimal disruption.

''We continue to manage the beds on a day-by-day, shift-by-shift basis, and we will open up beds if and when required.''

At a health board committee meeting this month, Health Minister-appointed Crown monitor Jan White warned members about a rise in the acute readmission rate, which could be linked to reduced bed numbers.

The rate measures patients readmitted to hospital within 28 days, and should be watched carefully for further deterioration, Dr White suggested.

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