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We promote, protect and support the interests of our members in all aspects of their working lives. We are working for an equitable, accessible public health care system that meets the needs of all New Zealanders.

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Whakaari / White Island: Whakatāne Hospital staff take stress leave

19 December 2019 Radio New Zealand

Whakatāne hospital doctors, nurses and specialists are taking stress leave after the horror of last week’s deadly eruption at Whakaari / White Island.

Local GPs, health boards around the country and specialists from Australia are stepping up to help out.

For those still alive after being caught in the eruption, 14 remain in four hospitals around New Zealand, with 10 still in a critical condition. Another 13 were transferred to hospitals in Australia, where one died.

Whakatāne Hospital pastoral care coordinator Fiona Miller said her colleagues appeared to be coping well and getting on with their jobs but the influx of severe injuries was likely to be causing them exhaustion, anxiety and problems with sleep.

The health board had consulted with experts in Christchurch, who supported medical staff after the 15 March mosque attacks, and there was support coming from unions like the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists.

In a statement, its executive director Ian Powell acknowledged how “deeply affected” some staff would be.

“Understandably many of the staff are under severe stress. We have been speaking with the DHB to ensure that arrangements are in place for people to take the time off they need to recover and access extra support and counselling if required. One specialist at the hospital said staff were still trying to process what happened and the impact will be felt for a very long time,” he said.

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