New Zealand Nurses Organisation media release, 7 June 2022
The New Zealand Nurses Organisation | Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa (NZNO) will today be supporting staff at Wellington Regional Hospital to issue a provisional improvement notice (PIN) regarding unsafe staffing affecting eight inpatient wards.
A PIN legally requires an employer or service provider to address a health and safety issue before a certain time in this case within eight days) and is a powerful step employees can take through their health and safety representative.
Staff say they are experiencing critical and unprecedented staffing shortages within these wards.
Sarah Ward, an NZNO delegate and registered nurse working in the 6 South/Cardiology Ward, says nurses are feeling burnt-out, fatigued and are experiencing high levels of sickness and COVID-related special leave, which has also taken its toll.
“On some shifts the ward is working four nurses down, but we are still expecting a high number of elective and acute patients coming in from the Emergency Department. We cannot continue to provide adequate nursing care with so few nurses.”
NZNO members and organisers have met with the charge nurse managers who escalated the safety concerns to the hospital management team. Staff at the eight wards were also polled to gauge support for the PIN, with 100 percent of those completing the poll (n=256) supporting it.
In issuing the PIN, staff want elective surgeries to be put on hold, including cancer surgery, for two weeks to give staff some breathing space. The PIN does not include acute surgery, paediatric and neonatal areas, and day surgery cases.
Staff also want no new admissions when wards are in critical ‘Red VIS status’ unless extra staffing and resources are provided to meet the extra need.
Lastly, they want operations managers more visible on the ward floor to support public awareness about critically unsafe staffing days – and to assist with patient triage/discharge.
Charge nurse managers say issuing a PIN has become necessary as a last resort.
“With extremely high vacancy rates across the inpatient areas, and a lack of nursing applicants, we cannot continue to provide safe care. We have tried all other avenues to resolve this and have worked closely with our colleagues.
“We acknowledge the excessive hours and huge discretionary effort of our nursing teams to prevent patient harm. As the global issue of nursing shortages is now severely affecting patients and staff at Wellington Regional Hospital.
“We have significant concerns for the safety and wellbeing of the nursing staff and the patients in our care.”
The eight wards affected are: 4 North Gynaecology; Medical Assessment and Planning Unit; 5,6 & 7 South; and 5, 6 & 7 North).
Media inquiries: Rob Zorn, NZNO Media and Communications Advisor: 027 431 2617.