Nursing reports

NZNO concerned at hospital staffing level pressures

New Zealand Nurses Organisation media release, 12 November 2021

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) says it’s concerned staffing levels at hospitals in the Auckland Metro DHBs are putting patient care at risk.

NZNO Lead Organiser Christina Couling says that, while Government and the DHBs report they currently have enough beds, that isn’t a lot of use when there aren’t sufficient staff numbers to look after the people in those beds. 

“The strain on Auckland health care workers right now is enormous. Each of the three Auckland DHBs has 300-400 nursing vacancies at present and, on top of this, members say a lot of staff are taking sick leave which puts even more pressure on those remaining at work.

“Auckland hospitals may be at less than 100 percent bed capacity, but in many cases there are not enough staff to provide the care required for patients who are seriously unwell with quite complex needs.

Ms Couling said nurses in the community are also feeling the pressure as the number of patients being monitored and cared for in their homes increases.

“There are now several hundred such referrals every day and demand for service is growing at a rapid rate. It is a real concern that the system simply does not have the capacity to handle this and that this could result in more deaths among Covid patients isolating at home.”

She said the health workforce is under considerable stress right now across the country but is especially dire in the Auckland region with current increased demands.

“We have contacted the DHBs seeking an opportunity to meet and discuss how we might assist, particularly with finding ways to support our members, whose resilience is waning.

“We are seeing nurses not coming into work because they are overwhelmed and stressed. Stand downs relating to COVID exposures events also create additional pressure. This is only going to get worse if they continue to be unsupported.

“Nurses are caring professionals, but who is there and what is being done to care for them?”


Media inquiries: Rob Zorn, NZNO Media and Communications Advisor: 027 431 2617.

NZNO warns Government: “You ain’t seen nothing yet!”

New Zealand Nurses Organisation media release, 21 October 2021

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) says Aotearoa New Zealand is dangerously underprepared for what seems an inevitable tsunami of community COVID cases that could completely break our health system, and that nurses must be part all proposed solutions.

NZNO Kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku says nurses are a highly skilled workforce and have risen to ever-increasing demands, but they are already burnt out and seriously understaffed. Meanwhile our health system is not adequate to meet the demands of Covid, which is only just beginning to have an impact.

“Basically, we’re saying to the Government that, even though you’re acknowledging things are frighteningly bad right now, ‘You ain’t seen nothing yet,’ and we would have been better prepared had you not decided to go it alone around nursing.

“The Government has not acted swiftly enough and, because it has not consulted with nursing experts or the nurses’ union, we have band aid solutions being applied all over the place that only serve to devalue nurses, while the heart of the problem has remained unaddressed.”

Ms Nuku says the announced 300 monthly MIQ spots for health workers is welcome news, but was a surprise that was way too little, way too late.

“Those 300 monthly health workers will be spread across the health sectors, including allied health, aged care, primary care and Māori and iwi providers starting two months from now – and they will need time to adjust to the Aotearoa New Zealand health system.

“Meanwhile we have around 3500 nursing vacancies nationally across the health sector. Even if the nurses took all 300 MIQ places each month, we wouldn’t be breaking even in a year’s time because so many nurses continue to leave.

“So we need a fair say in how those 300 health workers are selected and deployed each month.”    

Ms Nuku also says the Government’s touted solution of training nurses to work in intensive care units (ICU) is also woefully inadequate.

“It takes two or three years after graduating to become a proficient ICU nurse. Nurses are incredible, but it is not a fair or realistic long-term solution to expect them to function professionally in ICU environments on the basis of four hours’ online training. This will put nurses and patients at risk.”

She says the Government must consult with nursing unions and professionals in addressing nursing problems so properly workable solutions can be found.

“How will we incentivise the right kinds of overseas nurses to come here? What are we doing to keep our nursing graduates here and in the profession? These questions should have been addressed months ago, but they still aren’t even a real focus.

“And this is about much more than hospitals and Covid. Evidence from around the world shows people are suffering and/or dying in other parts of health systems because so many resources have been shifted towards the Covid response.

“NZNO needs to be at the table when nursing issues are being decided by Government and the situation we currently find ourselves is just likely to get worse because that has not happened.”  


Media inquiries: Rob Zorn, NZNO Media and Communications Advisor: 027 431 2617.

NZNO welcomes residency pathway announcement

New Zealand Nurses Organisation media release, 30 September 2021

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) welcomes Immigration Minister Hon Kris Faafoi’s one-off residence pathway for working migrants currently living in Aotearoa New Zealand announced today.

An estimated 5000 of these are health and aged care workers, and NZNO Industrial Services Manager Glenda Alexander says this will be good news for them and a step towards retaining our current nursing workforce.

“Many internationally qualified members of NZNO are frustrated with current immigration settings and some are leaving or have left Aotearoa New Zealand as a result.

“Removing uncertainty and providing a clear pathway to permanent residence will help address this exodus at a time when we are facing a crucial shortage of nursing professionals.”

Ms Alexander wrote to Hon Kris Faafoi on behalf of NZNO earlier this month on the very issue of permanent resident status for internationally qualified health care workers. She says that while the announced pathway addresses many of the concerns NZNO raised, more needs to be done about reuniting these workers already here with their families and loved ones still overseas.

“We are pleased that partners and dependents can also be included in applications for permanent residence if they are already living here.

“What we’d like to see is pathways opened up into the country for more internationally qualified nursing staff who want to live here permanently and for the same opportunity to be extended to their families.

“We are critically short of nurses at a time when we need them most, and it is unfair and counter-productive that they be required to work here while isolated and without support from close family.”

However, Ms Alexander said that while immigration was an important short-term solution to having a sustainable nursing workforce here, she agreed with Hon Kris Faafoi that employers must also find ways to build their workforces by attracting and retaining local workers.

“We need to contribute to nursing on a global scale by also encouraging New Zealanders into the nursing workforce. There is a lack of nurses in almost every country so taking health professionals away from other places where they are needed is not a workable solution long-term.

“We look forward to working with Government and employers on large scale nursing recruitment, and on making the nursing profession a more attractive career option in Aotearoa New Zealand.”


Media inquiries: Rob Zorn, NZNO Media and Communications Advisor: 027 431 2617.

NZNO issues Provisional Improvement Notice to Hawke’s Bay District Health Board

New Zealand Nurses Organisation media release, 23 September 2021

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) has supported staff working at the Hastings Hospital Emergency Department to issue a Provisional Improvement Notice (PIN) to Hawke’s Bay District Health Board (HBDHB) for failing in its primary duty of care under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.

PINs legally require an employer or service provider to address a health and safety issue before a certain time.

NZNO organiser Sue Wolland says issuing the PIN became necessary because repeated attempts to escalate concerns about dangerous working conditions that threaten patient safety have been ignored or minimised.

“Staff are working under incredible pressure which is severely impacting their physical and mental health. The department is well beyond capacity every day which means staff are unable to respond to people needing emergency care in the time required to best ensure their wellbeing.”

Ms Wolland said issues included: patients being ‘housed’ in inappropriate or hazardous places such as corridors; dangerous delays in triage and assessment; seriously unsafe and inadequate staffing levels; nurses too overworked to take meal and other breaks; patients missing out on essential care; increased risk of error; and staff feeling unsafe and anxious while at work.

“ED staff, including those in leadership, have repeatedly raised these concerns with the DHB and minor solutions have been proposed that never seem to eventuate. Our members have made these approaches in good faith, but sustained lack of progress has been the tipping point for issuing this PIN.

“What we have here is a serious or sentinel event just waiting to happen, resulting in avoidable patient death and the potential end to nursing careers.

“These concerns need to be urgently addressed, including contingency plans to cover staff sickness and to ensure staffing meets levels required for safe and acceptable standards of patient care.”

She said the PIN was issued on Monday 21 September and that the DHB was required to comply by 5 October. PINs can only be issued by trained health and safety representatives when other avenues to address a serious area of concern have been exhausted.


Media inquiries: Rob Zorn, NZNO Media and Communications Advisor: 027 431 2617.

NZNO welcomes safe staffing review

New Zealand Nurses Organisation media release, 15 September 2021

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) welcomes the Nursing Safe Staffing Review, and specifically the effectiveness of the implementation of ‘Care Capacity Demand Management (CCDM)’ at all Aotearoa New Zealand DHBs.

The review was confirmed by Minister of Health Andrew Little in his opening address to the NZNO conference this morning.

Under an Accord agreed between NZNO and the Ministry of Health in 2018, this implementation was promised to be in place by June 2021 but around half of Aotearoa New Zealand’s DHB’s do not yet have CCDM fully in place. This has been a significant issue for members of NZNO.

Hilary Graham-Smith will chair the nursing advisory group, which will also include Dr Rhonda McKelvie, Dr Jill Clendon and Kapua Quinn who each bring a deep understanding of the nursing profession and the staffing concerns it faces.

NZNO looks forward to engaging with the nursing advisory group and to providing its views on the effectiveness and implementation of CCDM.

NZNO is also pleased to hear the Minister acknowledge this morning that the people who work in the health system have been under pressure for a long, long time, and that dealing with the nursing shortage is a high priority for the Government.


Media inquiries: Rob Zorn, NZNO Media and Communications Advisor: 027 431 2617.

NZNO satisfied with Auckland DHB visitation policy decision

New Zealand Nurses Organisation media release, 13 September 2021

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) is satisfied now that Auckland District Health Board (ADHB) has agreed to restrict visitation to compassionate grounds only – when it moves Auckland Hospital from Code Yellow to Code Orange at 7am tomorrow.

NZNO Industrial Advisor David Wait said this decision, brings ADHB's visitation practice into line with the other hospitals in the Auckland region and reduces the risk of COVID-19 entering hospitals.

“We absolutely acknowledge that there are many health benefits from family and whānau visits to hospital patients. However, we are at Level 4 in the middle of a pandemic and that is why other Auckland region hospitals have much tighter policies in place.

“This change should have come long ago and we’re just grateful Auckland Hospital has been lucky not to have had a COVID exposure event.”

Wait said the next step was for ADHB to ensure it has a safe visiting policy going into the future.

“We understand Auckland Hospital’s visitation policy will be reviewed and it’s important that we and the hospital’s Health and Safety Representatives are included in that review.

“It is our members who make up Auckland Hospital’s frontline staff and it is therefore imperative they have a say in a policy that will very much affect their own safety and working conditions, along with the health of patients and the public.

“We look forward to ADHB engaging with us on this and to working with them to help ensure the best health and safety decisions are made.”


Media inquiries: Rob Zorn, NZNO Media and Communications Advisor: 027 431 2617.

NZNO takes legal action over Auckland Hospital visitor policy

New Zealand Nurses Organisation media release, 11 September 2021

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) has taken legal action through the Employment Relations Authority after Auckland District Health Board (ADHB) refused to meet with it for mediation on Friday over Auckland Hospital’s visiting policy.

NZNO Industrial Adviser David Wait says the policy places staff, patients and communities at risk of COVID-19.

“What we want is for the policy to be brought into line with those of other Auckland DHBs where visitor access is restricted to compassionate grounds and only when absolutely necessary during an outbreak of the delta variant that is by no means fully controlled.

“It makes no sense at all that one of our busiest hospitals in a region that is in Level 4 lockdown continues to allow members of the community to come and go, especially considering the impact COVID transmission would have on the DHB’s ability to safely provide services in this short-staffed environment.”

NZNO and ADHB lawyers met with the Authority by Zoom on Saturday morning and the parties were directed to engage in urgent mediation. Wait says NZNO proposed that the mediation take place on Sunday (12 September), given the urgency and seriousness of the situation, but ADHB has refused to meet before Monday afternoon.   

 “We have a hearing set with the Authority on Thursday afternoon if we cannot reach agreement, but that’s five days away, allowing further time for unnecessary close contacts to occur.

“We urge ADHB to engage with us without delay, and to stop putting the health and safety of our members and the public at risk.”

On Sunday (5 September) a union health and safety representatives issued a Provisional Improvement Notice to ADHB over its “free for all” visitor policy but Wait says the voices of workers have largely been ignored.

Worksafe has also issued an Improvement Notice, directing ADHB to engage with its workers on the policy, but Wait says not even this has made ADHB modify the policy in a way that would resolve the issues in any significant way.

“ADHB needs to look at the evidence, adopt best practice and listen to its staff. It’s staggering that we should have to appeal to a higher authority just to get them to talk to us about what is clearly a sensible and appropriate health and safety measure at a time of serious public danger.”


Media inquiries: Rob Zorn, NZNO Media and Communications Advisor: 027 431 2617.

Close contact nurses working underscores DHB staffing issues

New Zealand Nurses Organisation media release, Date 2021

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) says the fact that nurses who live with close contacts are being asked to turn up for work at Auckland’s DHBs, and monitor themselves for symptoms in the meantime, shows how desperate the health system is in terms of short staffing.

On Friday 20 August the Ministry of Health issued an exemption for essential health workers from the need to fully self-isolate as long as certain conditions were met.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins has said hospitals are identifying the lowest-risk people they can have working at the moment so our health system can continue to function.

But NZNO Kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku says there is a clear public health order that housemates of close contacts are required to self-isolate and they are still required to do so because they are a health risk.

“The health direction to self-isolate is there for good reason and there should be no exceptions.”

Ms Nuku said nurses, midwives, health care assistants and kaimahi hauora working in DHBs have been speaking out about unsafe staffing for decades.

“Successive governments have not listened, and nurses have just been told over and over to do more with less. The result of this is what you see now, where the Government has changed the Ministry of Health’s public health advice because the DHBs don’t have enough staff.

“It just makes no sense and further underscores the very urgent need to address short staffing by recognising and rewarding nursing so it’s a job people will want to do.”

She said nurses staying away from work because they live with close contacts is also a protection for them, and that nurses were as entitled to that protection as anybody else.


Media inquiries: Rob Zorn, NZNO Media and Communications Advisor: 027 431 2617.

Nurses withdraw strike action after lockdown declared

New Zealand Nurses Organisation media release, 17 August 2021

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) says it will withdraw its strike action plans for 19 August after a community case of COVID-19 in Auckland has led to a nationwide lockdown.

NZNO Industrial Services Manager Glenda Alexander said people’s health and wellbeing have to remain our number one priority.

“Our issues are important, but it would not be safe or responsible for us to continue with a strike if the country is under lockdown.

“Our members are resolute, and we will continue to look at future strike action, but our members are also health professionals and know that people and their wellbeing are the most important things. We will not put people in danger to make a point.

“One of our main issues has been that staffing levels are unsafe across the health system. We think it is important that all rostered nursing staff are at work should the COVID situation escalate.”

The strike was planned for 11am until 7pm on 19 August and NZNO will make further media statements as the situation develops.


Media inquiries: Rob Zorn, NZNO Media and Communications Advisor: 027 431 2617.

NZNO disturbed DHBs are seeking emergency cover ruling

New Zealand Nurses Organisation media release, 2 August 2021

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) is disturbed the district heath boards (DHBs) have approached the Employment Court to help resolve a disagreement over providing life preserving services (LPS) during strike action, says NZNO Kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku.

NZNO Industrial Services Manager Glenda Alexander said NZNO was not aware of any DHB facility that did not have its LPS needs met during the recent 9 June strike.

“We wonder why the DHBs did not approach us to discuss the matter before issuing a media release about their decision to take this action, which seems just another distraction from meaningful negotiations.

“We believe we have met all of our obligations as set out under the Code of Good Faith for the Public Health Sector (the Code) and that we have complied with all agreements reached. We will continue to do so in the future.”

Ms Alexander said NZNO and NZNO members have put a massive effort into ensuring life preserving services (LPS) are able to be provided and are gearing up to do the same for the 19 August strike.

“This is an affront to NZNO and its members who have worked constructively at all times with the DHBs to agree how best to provide LPS in each circumstance, and who will continue to do so. Our members have bent over backwards to make sure patients were not harmed as a result of strike action, and the services were certainly provided.

“It does appear, from what the DHBs are now stating publicly that NZNO and the DHBs have a different understanding of the extent of any rights and obligations under the Code in terms of LPS.

“However, NZNO members will not be putting patients and other staff at risk, as is implied by the DHB media release.”

Ms Alexander invited the DHBs instead to focus on coming up with an offer centred on guarantees that safe staffing will be in place every day to ensure the future of safe nursing practice is secure. She said she looks forward to negotiations commencing again on Thursday 5 August.


Media inquiries: Rob Zorn, NZNO Media and Communications Advisor: 027 431 2617.