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You Have Been Warned, Minister

You Have Been Warned, Minister

Monday 8 Sep 2003 Heather Roy Press Releases -- Health

ACT New Zealand Health Spokesman Heather Roy today condemned Health Minister Annette King for ignoring the warnings of North Shore mental health nurses, who have been predicting that staff shortages will soon lead to disaster.

"Last year, Ms King allocated funding for three new intensive care beds at the Taharoto mental health unit. The beds were provided, but Waitemata DHB claimed it had no money to staff them," Mrs Roy said.

"But, even if funding had been available, Taharoto could not have attracted staff - proven by the cutting of three beds this week. Taharoto's nurses - who regularly work double-shifts - have warned that shortages will lead to disaster. Experienced, but burnt-out, staff are leaving, and being replaced by new graduates who lack experience needed to cope with the heavy workload.

"Waitemata DHB pays mental health nurses less than neighbouring DHBs - meaning mental health staff are attracted to the greener pastures of Counties-Manukau or Auckland DHB - and Taharoto is currently 13 staff short.

"Such staffing shortages are endemic throughout New Zealand, and mental health staff are difficult to attract. Pay and working conditions are better overseas, and it is understandable that our skilled medical graduates are being lured overseas.

"While we train health professionals for export, vulnerable mental health patients slip through the cracks of a fragmented system. It is only a matter of time before we see another mental health tragedy - nurse's warnings are being ignored, and the Minister will not act until it is to late," Mrs Roy said.


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