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Emergency nurses feel temperature rise

Nurses strike outside Wairarapa Hospital. PHOTO/FILE

A Wairarapa Hospital emergency department [ED] nurse is calling out the DHB for failing to take action on critical staff shortages.

New Zealand Nurses Organisation delegate and ED nurse practitioner Lucy McLaren described the staffing crisis.

She said people coming to ED often waited for hours to be seen.

“Wairarapa DHB has been understaffed for 18 months and is in an even more critical situation now that nurses are isolating and even more are resigning,” she said.

“Just this Monday, non-urgent patients were waiting more than eight hours to be seen. Staff are horrified this pressure has been placed on them because it creates tensions that we bear the brunt of.”

McLaren’s comments come as the DHB chief executive Dale Oliff admitted the organisation faced staff shortages due to illness and recruitment problems.

“At the time of writing 20 DHB staff have tested positive for covid and all have followed the process for critical care workers in relation to self-isolation or have already completed this and returned to work,” she said on Thursday.

Last week Oliff said there were 63 full-time equivalent [FTE] staff vacancies in the DHB as of February 9, out of a full complement of 501. Of the 63, the ED required a 7.1FTE nursing and medical staff to be at full complement.

Oliff said staffing challenges were ongoing.

“Our recruitment efforts are challenged by a national shortage of doctors, nurses and other specialist medical staff. This challenge is not new, and has been seen by other DHBs around Aotearoa.”

McLaren said nurses issued a Provisional Improvement Notice (PIN) to the DHB on February 17. A PIN requires action by the employer on critical health and safety failings, especially unsafe staffing levels.

“While there’s no immediate fix to the staffing crisis, it has taken the DHB two weeks to even acknowledge the PIN,” she said.

McLaren said staff felt the DHB were not listening to them when they pointed out the issues.

“We need the DHB to be accountable for these chronic issues, and work with us rather than against us, to solve them.”

In late February the DHB advised people to only go to the ED if it was urgent. Last week Oliff restated that call.

“People should only use the Wairarapa Hospital ED if they are specifically seeking emergency care,” she said.

“The Emergency Department is for life-threatening emergencies only.

“Patients with non-life-threatening emergencies can affect the ability of ED staff to properly triage and manage patients, and hindering infection control measures by increasing the risk of spreading contagion to patients and other areas of the hospital,” Oliff said.

Non-life threatening emergency care is available at the after-hours service at Masterton Medical Centre at 4 Colombo Rd, Lansdowne, Masterton.

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