Wellbeing concerns for SDHB staff

Chris Fleming
Chris Fleming
Staff are unusually fatigued and feeling under greater pressure than usual, the Southern District Health Board was told yesterday.

Both chief medical officer Dr Nigel Millar and chief executive Chris Fleming warned the board that the issue was serious, and Mr Fleming said anecdotal evidence from other chief executives he had spoken to suggested that the SDHB was not the only organisation with staff wellbeing concerns.

"They are reporting exactly the same picture about the wellbeing of their workforce, of the stresses and the pressures facing their workforce.

"We are looking at both resourcing and the physical locality of our staff ... we are still trying to get a handle on things, particularly in nursing and allied health, in terms of pressure, burnout and sickness."

Mr Fleming said it was unclear whether pressures on staff were due to increases in workload or due to the added stresses caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, but feedback was consistent that staff resilience was very low.

That could have an impact on both patient safety and staff performance, and inquiries to the employee assistance programme had increased, he said.

"Our staff are affected by the same concerns and uncertainties as anyone else ... our staff live in the community too."

Mr Fleming said there was likely a wide range of causes why staff wellbeing was a concern, and issues varied from Dunedin to Southland to Queenstown.

Possible factors identified so far included high occupancy rates, particularly in Southland Hospital where they had frequently been more than 90%.

In general, patient numbers were clearly down for the year but, possibly due to delays in diagnosis and treatment because of the Covid-19 lockdown, patients were presenting with more complex and more serious complaints.

Dr Millar said he was extremely concerned about wellbeing issues and stressed to the board these were not idle fears

"This has been a very demanding year and our services have come under considerable stress," he said.

The SDHB had to be open to listening to staff concerns and proactive in trying to help, Dr Millar said.

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