WDHS says little on staffing claim

Oamaru Hospital
Oamaru Hospital
Waitaki District Health Services is being-tight lipped on claims of staff shortages at Oamaru Hospital.

A source told the Otago Daily Times this week that there were 17 gaps in nursing shifts last week, periods where there was no doctor on duty in the hospital's emergency department and that there was a shortage of rostered staff heading into this weekend.

It was also claimed a doctor at the hospital was recently suspended on full pay for speaking out about the Waitaki District Council-controlled company's "proposal for change" document.

The confidential 18-page document, distributed to staff in early February, included a proposed staffing restructuring and the reconfiguration of the hospital's layout to increase efficiency.

Waitaki District Health Services chief executive Ruth Kibble did not confirm or deny the claims when asked by the Otago Daily Times if they were accurate, what the company had done to address them, if patient safety was being compromised and if the doctor had been suspended on full pay.

In an emailed response, she said filling rosters could be difficult for any hospital at any time.

"All hospitals around the country experience rostering issues in any given week. Management work well in advance to provide levels of staffing on any given day.

"Patient safety is always at the forefront of our thinking, as well as safe staffing levels."

She said the company would "not discuss with media employment matters that may compromise staff privacy".

Waitaki Community Hospital Action Group chairwoman Dr Janice Clayton said she was concerned by the claims.

"We understand that there are staff shortages and gaps in the nursing and doctor rosters but we are not in a position to confirm the details of this. We think this is a serious matter that could affect the safety of the staff and the patients.

"We understand there are clear protocols for these circumstances that are not being followed. We believe this will need an independent review. We think the relationship between staff, management and governance has reached a critical point where there is a lack of trust and confidence."

Staffing at the hospital has been a hot topic of conversation on social media platforms around the town since details of the "proposal for change" document were made public.

That, in an effort to clarify its details, resulted in a series of four community meetings being held earlier this month, at which Ms Kibble and Waitaki District Health Service clinical director Dr Pragati Gautama explained the proposed changes to the physical layout of the hospital and discussed the proposal and the consultation process for staff.

Speaking on the contentious issue of staffing at the first meeting on March 5, Ms Kibble said no final decision had been made with regards to the proposal.

"We need to get our staffing right with this, in terms of staffing levels and staffing mix.

"There is no decision at this particular time, but we need to review how we work to support our clinical service quality and give us a platform for our long-term sustainability."

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