1 Nov 2022

Health NZ decided against relocating nurses to aid under-pressure hospitals

5:36 am on 1 November 2022
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Emergency departments are facing extreme pressure. Photo: 123RF

Te Whatu Ora has considered moving nurses around the country to help with extreme demand in emergency departments but decided it was too risky.

EDs remain under the kind of pressure usually only seen at the height of winter, with those in the main cities most impacted.

Te Whatu Ora chief executive Margie Apa said her teams discussed moving nurses between hospitals to help.

But they decided that could be unsafe because every hospital had its own way doing things, she said.

"The models of care are so different that it might actually increase the risk of harm if we put people in environments that they are not used to," she said.

"But I think that is the problem that we have to solve long term if we are going to move staffing to where we have peaks of demand, and acute settings are just one of those environments where we have to step through it very carefully."

Te Whatu Ora/Health NZ chair Rob Campbell said the board discussed the ED situation at its latest meeting and was "extremely concerned."

He thought moving nurses between centres was a good idea but trusted the way Te Whatu Ora management was handling the situation, he said.

Nurses were instead being moved from non-acute departments within hospitals to help in ED if they had the right skills, something once reserved for peak demand.

Apa said another measure once reserved for the highest demand was also being considered long term - giving after hours or urgent care clinic vouchers to patients who turned up to EDs with non urgent conditions.

"There are a whole number of things that we've tried that we'll be reviewing to see if we can continue to provide them on a sustainable basis so that we're diverting people away from ED front doors if they don't need to be there - if they're less acute," she said.

Campbell said the board also discussed the nursing shortage at the latest meeting.

He wanted to see overseas nurses moved onto the fastest track for residency under the government's Green List for priority immigration.

Apa said Te Whatu Ora was working closely with Immigration NZ regarding advice on what was needed.

There had been a good response to other measures, including 200 nurses applying for a return to nursing scheme, she said.

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