30 Jul 2018

Accord over nurses staffing signed: 'It is the end of this vicious cycle of severe under-funding'

1:41 pm on 30 July 2018

Top health officials have this morning signed up to an accord, promising to better manage staffing levels to ensure the health workforce is safe.

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Health Minister David Clark Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Nurses striking for pay have been equally concerned about staffing levels - with stories told of nurses literally running between wards at capacity.

The Health Minister David Clark, alongside the Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield, District Health Board (DHB) and nurses union representatives, signed up to the accord at Parliament this morning.

It means extra funding to DHBs for 500 more nurses around the country, and the proper implementation of a tool that manages staffing levels at DHB level and can predict where shortages may be.

Dr Clark said the Care Capacity Demand Management (CCDM) tool will be fully implemented in all DHBs by 2021.

"At the same time, a strategy will be developed to help keep existing nurses and midwives in the public health service, and attract others back to work in our hospitals," he said.

Dr Clark said this accord is recognition that we have been asking too much of nurses for too long and their workloads are unsustainable.

"Certainly in opposition, I heard a lot of stories of nurses who were stretched and struggling, and also stories from patients on wards about their concerns that they literally saw nurses running to get things done."

New Zealand Nurses' Organisation chief executive Memo Musa is pleased change is finally coming.

"Over recent years clearly there has been reluctance by District Health Boards to advance safe staffing and care capacity demand management. The slow pace of implementation has been unacceptable," he said.

Mr Musa said nurses, after a decade of underfunding, said they've felt it was pointless to carry on pushing for the CCDM tool when clearly there was no way the hospitals could afford to bring in extra resources to meet the needs of patients.

"What I feel today, is that it is the end of this vicious cycle of severe under-funding and low morale."

Tairawhiti District Health Board chief executive Jim Green said the message has been sent from nurses, loud and clear.

"There has been progress, but much more is needed. This accord provides another way in which progress can be made, ensuring NZNO members see it and feel it when they're on the wards and doing the work, and allowing for direct feedback to government."

He said there is no silver bullet solution, but they're not starting from ground zero on the CCDM tool.

"I know that around the country DHBs are already recruiting and taking measures to implement this straight away to give that jolt, that move that nurses are really wanting to see."

He said CCDM provides them with the ability to get the right staff in the right place, at the right time.

"It's a very sophisticated piece of work and has actually been recognised internationally as quite substantially advanced."

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