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Nurses told to reject offer


NZNO has told its members not to work extra shifts for fear of exhaustion. PHOTO/STOCK.ADOBE.COM

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The nurses union is advising its members not to take an incentive pay offer from Health NZ [Te Whatu Ora].

The advice comes after the Times-Age was told that Wairarapa Hospital nurses were not paid double time for extra shifts in the same way that Hutt Hospital nurses were remunerated.

On Tuesday Health NZ released an incentive payment offer for extra shifts for qualified nurses, midwives and allied health professionals. The offer included an $800 for five additional nights worked between June 13 and September 30, in addition to the collective agreement. They were also offered $100 gross payment for each eight-hour or greater shift worked.

Health NZ chief executive Margie Apa said they developed a series of temporary trigger points to be applied nationally over the winter.

“Our health workforce staff, including nurses, are critical to the continued delivery of healthcare services for our community.

Apa acknowledged the variation in existing incentive arrangements between districts — a legacy of the former fragmented DHB system.

“We have now developed a series of temporary trigger points, to be applied nationally, for incentive payments over the current winter period. These trigger points are effective as of this week.

“They will be considered shift by shift, as the system continues to navigate a period of high pressure

“They are not a permanent replacement for existing processes such as MECA agreements. To be actioned, they need initial escalation to regional directors, and then on to the national leadership of Health NZ. They cannot be put in place by a district decision alone

“They should not be described as a ‘bonus’ payment — the sole purpose is to fill hard-to-fill rosters, for instance night shifts in some specific clinical settings”

Apa said they were assessing further steps to help free-up staff from other areas to support the emergency departments under strain.

“We are continuing with our comprehensive recruitment campaigns to bolster the nursing workforce.”

NZ Nurses Organisation advised its members not to take the offer. President Anne Daniels said nurses taking on extra shifts when already exhausted would put them at risk.

“Nurses can decide whether to take the offer. Our nurses are extremely stretched. If they are tired and continue to work, it puts them in danger.”

She was worried about nurses working 10 consecutive days.

“The hospital can’t require nurses to work 10 days. For their safety the hospital requires each nurse to have the minimum required days off.

“However, an individual can waive those protections but that would be at their own detriment.

“When I first started working as a nurse, it was in our contract to work 10 day stretches, but we realised it was unsafe. Our nurses’ wellbeing, and our patients’ wellbeing needs to be our priority.”

She said the offer, which gave incentives to work extra shifts silenced nurses’ wellbeing.

“The more tired they are, the more likely they are to make mistakes.”

She also described extra shifts as a sticking plaster solution.

“Nurses are continuing to plug the gaps, but it’s getting to the point where even when nurses work those extra shifts, we don’t have enough nurses for those gaps.”

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