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Hospital chief ‘sorry’

PHOTO/FILE

DHB’s emergency department wait times ‘misled’ public – NZNO

As Wairarapa Hospital emergency department [ED] comes under increasing pressure, the DHB chief executive has issued an email apologising to staff.

The email was an effort to explain confusion caused by ED wait times published by the DHB on its Facebook page.

The post in late February said people would be seen ‘immediately’, ‘within 10 minutes’, and a further range of times up to two hours, depending on the severity of their medical condition.

The DHB subsequently deleted the Facebook post, but the Times-Age had already reported the DHB’s figures.

Actual ED wait times reported by the DHB as of March 3 were 72 per cent of ED patients treated and discharged, or admitted as an inpatient, within 6 hours.

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation [NZNO] issued a press release expressing concern the DHB had misled the public with unrealistic wait times, while failing to take steps to improve staffing. The DHB has reported the ED was seven full-time equivalent staff short.

NZNO delegate and ED nurse practitioner Lucy McLaren said the wait times in the Facebook post were misleading.

“The estimates given by the DHB are ideal and based on fully staffed wards outside a pandemic.

“We just can’t meet that expectation. 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.”

Last week, non-urgent ED patients waited more than eight hours.

Nurses issued a provisional improvement notice (PIN) to the DHB in mid-February highlighting 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,” McLaren said, She said staff felt demoralised because it seemed the DHB was overstating capacity, and not listening when they pointed out the issues.

“We need the DHB to apologise and issue realistic advice on what people can expect at the hospital.”

Dale Oliff

DHB chief executive Dale Oliff sent an explanatory email and apology to the NZNO last Thursday.

“Thank you for your email raising concerns about unrealistic expectations being raised about waiting times because of an article in the Wairarapa Times-Age based on material provided by the Wairarapa DHB,” she said.

“Firstly, can I say how sorry I am that the article in the Times-Age has created the backlash from members of the public towards your delegates which is both unfair and unjustified.

“Secondly, the copy that has caused this issue was one of three posted on Facebook and sent to stakeholders.”

Oliff said there had been internal concerns about pressure on the ED, and the posts had been an effort to address this.

“To provide background understanding for the public’s understanding, the context regarding wait times was taken from the CCDHB [Capital and Coast District Health Board] website.

Oliff said that over the past three weeks messaging about the ED was consistent, with the objective of managing patient expectations and taking pressure off ED staff.

The Times-Age asked the DHB for comment on reports the Facebook posts were misleading.

“Actually, it was not an error,” Oliff said.

“The information is in fact correct and can be found on the CCDHB website. The reality in the current covid-19 environment is that long waiting times are a fact of life because of staff shortages.

“This means that although we have ideal timeframes to treat patients, the reality is we simply can’t meet them,” she said.

“You may be able to get more timely care closer to home from your GP or Healthline.”

She explained why the DHB publicised ‘ideal timeframes’ although current conditions were not ideal.

“We were trying to make the point, patients are treated in order of urgency, not arrival times.”

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