8 Jun 2019

Nurses' union calls for action at Hawke's Bay Hospital

12:49 pm on 8 June 2019

The nurses' union is calling for urgent action over working conditions at Hawke's Bay Hospital, which has had staff leaving shifts in tears.

Hawke's Bay Fallen Soldiers' Memorial Hospital, Hastings.

Hawke's Bay Fallen Soldiers' Memorial Hospital, Hastings. Photo: RNZ / Peter Fowler

New Zealand Nurses' Union has written to Hawke's Bay District Health Board (HBDHB) asking it to address health and safety concerns repeatedly raised by nurses, which it says have been ignored by management.

Concerns include understaffing and patient violence and aggression.

The union's professional nursing adviser, Anne Brinkman, said some staff were coming off their shifts in tears.

She said many were seeking alternative employment, at a time when recruitment and retention was already a problem for HBDHB.

"Multiple times of every shift, nurses are documenting and communicating the health and safety concerns with management. The concerns are extensive and include the diminshing ability of nursing staff to care for patients so this poses a danger of course to staff and patient well-being and this means care has to be rationed."

Hawke's Bay DHB Chief Nurse and Midwifery Officer Chris McKenna said she was very disappointed NZNO hadn't first discussed this with her and given her an opportunity to respond.

"I have met NZNO, along with other senior managers, at four different forums in the last month, and none of these issues have been raised with us.

"We have worked very hard, and in partnership we thought, with NZNO on the Care Capacity and Demand Management programme, (CCDM). This is a nationally agreed programme to match nursing capacity to patient demand."

"Hawke's Bay was one of the first DHBs in the country to implement this, and more than $2.5million has been spent recruiting new nursing staff in the past two years, and more investment is planned. NZNO publically congratulated us on our work with this programme as recently as 10 November, 2018."

Ms Brinkman said managers urgently needed to ensure health and safety obligations were met.

Earlier this week 50 senior doctors at the hospital warned board members that chronic shortages of beds, staff and delays in elective surgeries were putting patients' safety at risk.

The consultants called an urgent meeting with the board last week and met with the chair Kevin Atkinson and four other board members, to speak out about what was going wrong.

The list included concerns about hospital capacity, patient flows and long waiting times for elective surgeries resulting in more complex cases and longer stays in hospital.

Board member Barbara Arnott said while HBDHB was well aware of pressures within the hospital the meeting was a wake-up call.

"ED talked about going from 30,000 presentations to the Emergency Department to 50,000 presentations in a very short amount of time and that pressure means electives fall off the bottom."