DHBs are being forced to make massive cuts in their budgets and for some, the way they’re doing it is by squeezing nursing budgets. You can see why they do it, the nursing budget is large, but it is a false economy.
Cutting nursing budgets to the bone means that staff are burning out and leaving, patient care is being compromised, vacancies aren’t being filled, staff are burning out… you get the picture.
NZNO members at Dunedin hospital have finally had enough. A meeting for NZNO members and DHB management was called for the 24 February and to everyone’s surprise 300 nursing staff showed up to have their say and they were not there to nod and smile and accept the same old “but we have no money” story.
The numbers at the meeting are an indication of the scale of the problems at the hospital and how seriously nurses are taking it.
Members and delegates spoke passionately about what’s happening in their wards and units; they talked about feeling desperately worried about not being able to provide the right care at the right time to their patients. They spoke about low morale, fatigue and burnout. They talked about an over 12 percent increase in patient admissions over the last year and the climbing levels of acuity of patients presenting at the emergency department.
Hospital management responded by assuring staff that their concerns were being heard and suggested working groups to look at issues. They also suggested that NZNO was over reacting and pulling an election year stunt.
Members respectfully suggested that working groups are not the only answer. They said what is needed is urgent action, in the form of more staff, and they were clear that they are not in a position to “find efficiencies”. NZNO members know there are no more efficiencies to be found.
And they are right to be offended that their concerns are considered nothing more than a stunt. Election year or not, when patients are no longer at the centre of DHB decision-making and dollars are, something is sadly awry. NZNO members have an obligation to act.
This is a serious matter. The ability for nurses to provide the right care at the right time should never be used as a political football.
We expect an immediate response from the DHB and a long term solution, including improved funding for safe staffing, to be developed in consultation with NZNO staff and every single affected member.
Dunedin hospital members have reason to be proud of their actions. The journey towards a solution will take commitment and perseverance. We thank each and every one of them for their collective stance and we will continue to support their fight for quality care, a safe working environment and proper staffing levels.