11 Nov 2022

Emergency department pressures: Te Whatu Ora 'doing what we can'

10:10 am on 11 November 2022
Inside Hospital generic

Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

Doctors and nurses are calling for Te Whatu Ora to fix the immense pressure on hospital emergency departments.

Additional pressure would be placed on some hospital emergency departments because of an uptick in Covid-19 cases, interim national medical director Dr Pete Watson told Morning Report.

"It's a tough time out there and I just want to make sure everybody knows that we are doing what we can to support our staff during these times."

The health authority was trying to make sure people knew to go to their GP as a primary care provider, he said.

"That's one of the most important things here, that when people become unwell they call Healthline, they go to their GP, they actually seek out their care early so people don't all end up having to come to an emergency department."

The health sector was short on staff across the healthcare system and allied health workers were being brought in to help nurses, he said.

Te Whatu Ora was working as quickly as it could to recruit people into the workforce and focusing on immigration, returning workers and training new workers, he said.

The Nurses Organisation was calling for increased security presence in emergency departments as wait times grow.

Mental health patients were sometimes stranded for days in North Shore Hospital's emergency department waiting for a bed on a ward, and other patients were not on heart monitors when they should be.

Frustrated ED health staff, led by nurses, made a formal health and safety complaint about the hospital on 26 October.

Violence against staff was increasing but security staff were stretched thin, they said.

Watson said security guards were now in place at the hospital following the assault of a patient by another patient in the ED. The authority was trying to make sure there was flow0through in emergency departments, he said.

Many other emergency departments were in the same situation as Northshore Hospital, Association of Salaried Medical Specialists executive director Sarah Dalton said.

Te Whatu Ora was listening to its people on the ground, Watson said.

"It's really important that at each place we do respond as the issues arise and a case-by-case basis," Watson said.

Meanwhile, third year AUT students have said they are under immense stress juggling 40-hour-a-week unpaid clinical placements alongside full-time study with no payment or compensation for expenses like petrol or hospital parking.

It was an issue Te Whatu Ora would need to work with education providers on, he said.

"We recognise that this is stressful on everyone in the workforce."

Health workers would have an opportunity to speak to the health minister about these issues tomorrow, he said.

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