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Wairarapa ED nurses concerned DHB misleading public on wait times while failing to address staff shortages

New Zealand Nurses Organisation media release, 10 March 2022  

Members of the New Zealand Nurses Organisation | Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa (NZNO) at Wairarapa DHB’s Emergency Department are concerned that the DHB has misled the public with unrealistic wait times, while failing to take steps to improve the staffing situation.

Wairarapa DHB CEO Dale Oliff was recently quoted in the Wairarapa Times-Age stating that wait times varied from about 10 minutes to two hours depending on urgency.

However, NZNO delegate and Emergency Department Nurse Practitioner Lucy McLaren says Ms Oliff’s comments are totally misleading.

"The estimates given by the DHB are ideal and based on fully staffed wards outside a pandemic," says Ms McLaren. "We just can’t meet that expectation.

"Wairarapa DHB has been understaffed for 18 months and is in an even more critical situation now that nurses are isolating and even more are resigning.

"Just this Monday, non-urgent patients who should supposedly wait up to two hours were waiting more than eight hours to be seen.

"Staff are horrified this pressure has been placed on them because it creates tensions that we bear the brunt of."

Ms McLaren says the false assurances are especially insulting given that nurses issued a Provisional Improvement Notice (PIN) to the DHB on 17 February. A PIN requires action by the employer on critical health and safety failings, especially unsafe staffing levels across the hospital.

"While there’s no immediate fix to the staffing crisis, it has taken the DHB two weeks to even acknowledge the PIN.

"We’re feeling completely demoralised because on the one hand the DHB is far overstating our capacity, and on the other hand, they’re not listening to us when we point out the issues.

"We need the DHB to apologise and issue realistic advice on what people can expect at the hospital. It then needs to be accountable for these chronic issues, and work with us rather than against us, to solve them."  


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