27 Jul 2018

Minister offers new accord over nurses staffing

6:42 pm on 27 July 2018

Health Minister David Clark says a joint accord will be launched to ensure safe staffing in hospitals, as nurses prepare to vote on the latest offer from DHBs.

Nurses went on strike for 24 hours on 12 July, the first national strike in three decades, as the row largely over pay and staffing deepened.

Dr Clark said today the government was committed to making sure there were enough nurses in public hospitals to ensure the safety of both nurses and patients and he would be requiring district health boards to make good on all staffing commitments.

Under the accord, to be signed on Monday, DHBs, the Health Ministry and the nurses' union will ensure safe staffing under a system known as Care Capacity Demand Management, Dr Clark said.

He told reporters nurses' workloads were too high, and the accord would ensure that this changed through proper implementation of the Care Capacity Demand Management system.

"I am committed to see that this works, I am absolutely determined to ensure that DHBs delivered, in my letter to the parties I will be seeking that safe staffing is part of the chief executive's performance expectations."

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation has said the fifth offer made in recent weeks, revised by DHBs, retained previously offered benefits, addressed the issue of safer staffing, and brought forward a new top salary step for senior nurses.

NZNO industrial services manager Glenda Alexander said the union was recommending members accept the new deal, which had significant wins, but some nurses remained critical of the offer.

Dr Clark said today's move was separate to the the latest offer which commits to hiring 500 more nurses.

The accord commits to implementing the CCDM safe staffing tool by 2021, and establishes a process of formal reporting.

Dr Clark said he wanted to ensure the two sides could agree on a process to get to safe staffing, he said.

"Because I think that's the issue we're hearing again and again, it's about nurses being stretched and whether that's sustainable on the wards, and I for one don't think the current arrangement has been sustainable."

But a nurse told Checkpoint that staffing was at crisis point and inexperienced nurses were forced to deal with complex situations alone.

"They were given seven patients to look after on that shift on their own, with no back up or no help and it's just unacceptable. How can we live like that? How can we nurse like that? We can't do it."

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