Government-led accord on public hospital safe nurse staffing levels welcomed
“Health Minister David Clark is to be commended for brokering an accord on safe nurse staffing levels in public hospitals,” says Ian Powell, Executive Director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS).
“This is a very welcome initiative from a Minister who clearly wants to make a real difference for patients and health professionals.”
Mr Powell was commenting on the Health Minister’s announcement that an accord had been reached between district health boards, the New Zealand Nurses Organisation and the Ministry of Health (https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/minister-brokers-accord-safe-nurse-staffing).
“Nurses have been saying for some time that their workloads are unsustainable and are taking a toll on them personally and professionally. The accord won’t be an instant fix, but it does recognise that DHBs, Government and nurses working in public hospitals have a common interest in addressing issues of shortages and overwork, and it provides a mechanism to deal with these issues.”
Mr Powell says senior doctors and dentists working in public hospitals have also been dealing with longstanding shortages and resource constraints from years of under-funding of the health system, and they too would welcome a similar initiative to deal with these issues.
In an address to the Hospital and Community Dentistry conference in Queenstown at the weekend, he highlighted some of the adverse effects of these issues on hospital specialists (https://www.asms.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Address-to-Hospital-and-Community-Dentistry-Conference-28-July-2018_170267.1.pdf).
ASMS research has recorded high levels of burnout (50%) among hospital specialists, along with high levels of presenteeism (working while sick, including working while infectious), and with 25% of specialists surveyed intended to leave DHB employment in the next five years.
“The very real question at the heart of these issues, for both nurses and hospital specialists, is how can they be expected to look after their own health and well-being while also ensuring safe, high quality care for patients when they’re continually working under such pressure,” says Mr Powell.
“If David Clark was to also require DHBs to ensure safe staffing levels for hospital specialists, this would be a positive move from a Government keen to strengthen the quality of patient centred care. We look forward to discussing this further with him.”