Middlemore Hospital’s ED capacity at ‘dangerous level' - health worker

7:17 pm on 25 March 2021

A worker at Middlemore Hospital's emergency department says it cannot cope with the demand for its services, and serious staffing shortages are now impacting on the treatment of patients.

No caption

Some patients are waiting two days for beds at Middlemore Hospital's emergency department, a worker says. Photo: Stuff / Stephen Forbes

The health worker said they feared being identified as it could jeopardise their career.

They said they were not blaming the hospital's management for the dire situation, but said the emergency department could not keep up with the area's ongoing growth, and a historical lack of funding from the government only exacerbates the problem.

"I came in on Monday and there were 55 people waiting for beds," the worker said.

"There were patients who had been waiting for two days ... It's at such a dangerous level the patients aren't getting the care they need through a lack of government funding."

They said patients are supposed to be seen and treated within six hours of arrival, but often the emergency department is falling well short of the target.

At 11am on Monday, there were patients being seen who had been in the waiting room since 9pm the previous day, they said.

"The population in South Auckland has expanded so much that this hospital cannot cope."

No caption

Middlemore Hospital's ED lacks the staff and resources to cope with the pressures it faces on a day-to-day basis, a health worker says. (file pic) Photo: 123RF

College of Emergency Nurses NZ chair Sandy Richardson said such workplace pressures were not unique to Middlemore, and were being seen in other hospitals around the country.

"It's been building for a long time and it's reached a point where it's going to explode," Richardson said.

"We can't keep working like this."

One DHB seeks 150 nurses

During the parliamentary health select committee's annual review of the Counties Manukau DHB this month, chief nurse Jenny Parr said the DHB had vacancies for 150 nurses.

She said the DHB was trying to juggle staff working in managed isolation facilities, while the country's closed borders meant access to overseas workers was restricted.

Labour MP Louisa Wall said chronic underfunding of the DHB had seen it shortchanged by over half a billion dollars over the past 21 years.

That was despite the fact its residents represented some of the most socio-economically deprived people in the country, with high rates of health problems such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease.

Health Minister Andrew Little said on Wednesday that the government was preparing to urgently restructure the health system, which was under stress and riven with inequities.

no metadata

Local Democracy Reporting is a public interest news service supported by RNZ, the News Publishers' Association and NZ on Air.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs