The New Zealand Nurses Organisation, Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa (NZNO) says it has supported the issuing of a provisional improvement notice (PIN) to Gisborne Hospital’s Ward Five in response to health and safety concerns arising from unsafe staffing levels.
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).
The PIN was issued today (Tuesday 20 December) at 2.45pm by the HSR for the Ward because acute and persistent staff shortages have resulted in untenable workloads, staff stress, increased sick leave, burn out and resignations.
Ward Five staff voted overwhelmingly to support issuing the PIN as worker shortages were making it unsafe for both patients and staff.
The PIN recommended reducing the bed count in ward five from 25 beds to 20 to ease the pressure on staff.
NZNO Tairāwhiti delegate Christine Warrander said every time there was an acute staffing shortage, it meant a patient was at risk of not getting the correct care they needed.
"It also means workers are often forced to work well beyond the limit of their safe practice regularly and it remains deeply unsafe for everyone involved, unfortunately."
Warrander said safety concerns had been raised repeatedly with Te Whatu Ora Tairāwhiti over the past few months, but these had not been adequately addressed.
"Due to the acute staffing shortage, the employer has failed to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, a safe working environment leading to stress, fatigue and care rationing of patients.
"Despite repeated voiced concerns through the proper channels, they have not mitigated the risk present in Ward Five which is a breach of their primary duty of care."
She said that although some actions were agreed upon through a formal consultation process, workers have conveyed through survey responses that it has not been enough to mitigate or eliminate the acute staffing shortage.
"Ward Five is frequently below FTE which means staff shortages on shifts with high acuity patients. There is also inadequate Variance Response Management, which includes bringing nurses in temporarily from other areas, available."
Staff were absolutely exhausted, and the health system desperately needs to be recruiting more nurses, Warrander said.
"PINs like these highlights exactly why so many experienced nurses are moving overseas to safer environments, and we just don’t have the nurses to replace them."
Te Whatu Ora Tairāwhiti management has until 9 January to comply with the PIN’s recommendations.
For more information contact:
Samesh Mohanlall | Media and Communications Advisor, New Zealand Nurses Organisation
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Mobile: +64 (0)21 240 3420