New Zealand Nurses Organisation media release, 21 May 2023
The New Zealand Nurses Organisation Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa (NZNO) says Te Whatu Ora has applied for an interim injunction to stop a one-hour health and safety strike by its desperate Ward 5 (Acute Medical) nurses at Gisborne Hospital.
The 24 staff planned to strike from 1.30pm-2.30pm on Wednesday 24 May and on 12 May had already negotiated an agreement, signed off by Te Whatu Ora, over provision of life preserving services, including a protocol for management of emergencies.
NZNO says it will oppose the interim injunction and the hearing will take place on Monday 22 May at 10am in Wellington.
NZNO delegate at Ward 5 Christine Warrander said this was a small-scale strike, by a small number of exhausted staff for a short period of time – and that it was motivated by genuine fears for their own and patient wellbeing.
“We took this action as a last-ditch effort to be heard after repeated pleas for help had fallen on deaf ears.”
A provisional improvement notice (PIN) was issued back in December 2022 for Ward 5 in response to health and safety concerns including acute staff shortages, untenable workloads, staff stress, increased sick leave, burn out and resignations.
But the situation has only become worse since the PIN was issued, Ms Warrander said.
“Our asks are simple, such as reducing beds from 25 down to 20 to make workloads more manageable, but instead of acknowledging they have a serious problem and addressing it, we feel like we’re being strong-armed and silenced.
“Staff morale is at an all time low and my colleagues and I are genuinely anxious about coming into work every day.”
NZNO Chief Executive Paul Goulter said this “at best heavy-handed” response in the middle of a crisis, where the wellbeing of both patients and nurses is seriously at risk, does not reflect well on Te Whatu Ora as an employer.
“Our members right across the motu are experiencing the same dismissive response to their concerns and calls for help, and they’re just asked to do more and more until that becomes the norm. This just cannot carry on because people’s wellbeing is at risk, and our members have the right to strike in a situation like this.”
He said there had been an outpouring of support from nurses around the country for the courage and determination of the Ward 5 staff.
“Nurses across the health system feel like their situation is very similar and they’re angry and disappointed that Te Whatu Ora has tried to prevent a very legitimate and justified strike.
“These nurses just want to get this dangerous situation in their ward fixed because they care about their patients. This response from Te Whatu Ora will only ensure things continue to worsen.”
He said NZNO would always be happy to sit down with Te Whatu Ora to discuss this situation further.
Media enquiries: Rob Zorn, NZNO Media and Communications Advisor: 027 431 2617 | firstname.lastname@example.org