21 Dec 2022

Nurses Union issues Gisborne Hospital with notice over ward staffing shortage

11:25 am on 21 December 2022
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Ward five at Gisborne Hospital is the acute medical ward and also looks after patients with Covid-19. Photo: RNZ Pacific / Sela Jane Hopgood

The country's largest nurses union has issued Gisborne Hospital management with a notice to urgently fix serious issues in one of its wards.

Ward five is the acute medical ward, generally for anyone who does not need surgeries or operations. It also looks after patients with Covid-19.

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) said staff shortages had resulted in untenable workloads leading to sick leave, burn out and resignations.

A provisional improvement notice (PIN) was issued by the ward's health and safety representative today.

Delegate Christine Warrander said they were nearly six full-time nurses down and that was creating stress. There were supposed to be five on in the morning, five in the afternoon, and five at night.

"Our roster's not able to get filled like that so we're doing care rationing, which means that we're just not able to do the care that the patients ideally should have, like regular turns if they're not able to be mobilise in and out of bed by themselves ... not toileted on a regular basis, often medications can be late," Warrander said.

"Nurses are often going home crying and these are senior nurses who have been nursing 30-40 years and they've never seen it as bad as what it is at the moment," she said.

"It's very demoralising, because you don't come into nursing to do a half-pie job, you want to do the best that you can via your patient, and if it was your family member lying in that bed, you'd be wanting better care than what they're actually getting at the moment."

The morale was probably the lowest it had been in a long time, Warrander said.

In a statement, Te Whatu Ora Tairāwhiti interim district director Jim Green said management had worked closely with the union and ward staff to improve staffing levels.

"We will continue to do all we can to resolve the situation, which we monitor and respond to on a shift-by-shift basis.

"The government is implementing a wide range of initiatives to address immediate workforce pressures as well as working on longer-term measures to ensure a sustainable health workforce. We are strongly committed to retaining, developing and growing our local workforce, and to augmenting it by actively recruiting from overseas.

"We will comply with the PIN notice and have already responded to NZNO to meet this week to discuss further."

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