New Zealand Nurses Organisation media release, 16 June 2022.
Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs), with support from the New Zealand Nurses Organisation, Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa (NZNO), have issued three provisional improvement notices (PINs) to Palmerston North Hospital’s Emergency Department.
The PINs were issued late on Wednesday afternoon 15 June, and are based around three core issues: an overcrowded noisy work environment; lack of staffing resources resulting in untenable workloads; and staff wellbeing and stress, resulting in increased sick leave, burnout and resignations.
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 (HSR).
Safety concerns have been raised repeatedly with MidCentral District Health Board (DHB) over the last few months, but the HSRs say concerns have not been adequately addressed. Staff were surveyed about their support for the PINs, with 100 percent of those completing the poll (n=62) voting yes.
Staff say they are experiencing critical and unprecedented staffing shortages at the emergency department making it unsafe for both patients and staff.
The PINs’ recommended improvements include, among other things: closure of outpatient clinics; cancellation of elective surgeries; review of overflow bed practices, decreased visitor numbers, roster reviews and additional medical cover overnight.
HSR Kirsten Caves says it is extremely unsafe for both patients and staff if staff continue working under these circumstances.
“We’re stretched physically, mentally, and emotionally with a high level of sick leave leading to high resignations. This now means we are significantly understaffed.
“To make matters worse, we are lacking in resources and our department space just isn’t sufficient for the number of patients coming into ED.”
She said staff were absolutely exhausted, and that the health system needs desperately to be recruiting more nurses.
“These PINs highlight exactly why so many experienced nurses are decamping overseas to safer environments, and we just don’t have the nurses to replace them.”
MidCentral DHB management have until 23 June to comply with the PINs' recommendations.
Media inquiries: Rob Zorn, NZNO Media and Communications Advisor: 027 431 2617.