As hospitals across New Zealand grapple with staff shortages, Wairarapa Hospital also continues to face shortfalls.
The emergency department [ED] is experiencing further pressure while dealing with rostering issues, and ED clinical head Dr Norman Gray said demand is increasing.
“The Wairarapa Hospital emergency department continues to experience growing demand for services from patients with increasingly complex needs and acuity,” he said.
“This, in turn, has put further pressure on our ED as we continue to face challenges with our ED roster.
“Rostering pressures can result from a range of factors including existing vacancies and recruitment challenges, sick or domestic leave, annual leave, school holidays, and unexpected family emergencies.”
The emergency department has five clinical vacancies with over 27 vacancies across the entire facility.
In June last year, the Times-Age reported there were 24 clinical vacancies across the hospital.
Nationwide Te Whatu Ora has 2630 vacancies for nurses and 298 for resident medical officers.
Gray said the acute unit, which is made up of the ED and high dependency unit, is budgeted for 50 employees or 49.92 full-time equivalents.
“While we continue to actively recruit, we do so in the face of an international shortage of appropriately qualified health professionals and specialists,” he said.
“These challenges are not new or isolated to Wairarapa.
“We continue to look at options to improve recruitment and retention of clinical staff.”
Gray noted that while the ED was at capacity when he spoke to the Times-Age, demand can fluctuate based on capacity.
“This can change from hour to hour as patients are discharged or admitted to other wards across the wider hospital,” he said.
“We have experienced a higher patient volume over the summer due to the holiday period and the influx of visitors to Wairarapa.”
Gray said the hospital has contingencies in place when faced with staffing shortfalls.
“Like other districts, Te Whatu Ora Wairarapa has processes and procedures in place to ensure the continued delivery of services.
“These include asking staff to carry out additional duties, using locums [a person who takes over the duties of another], and working with other hospitals in the Te Whatu Ora hospital network.”
Gray wanted to express his gratitude to the facility’s hard-working staff.
“We highly value our staff and recognise the hard work and dedication they put in each and every day to provide care and support for our patients and whānau,” he said. “We thank them for their flexibility in picking up additional shifts and duties, and their ongoing professionalism in helping to ensure we deliver the best care for our community.” FREDDIE WILKIE