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Common sense needed in mental health staffing

Dr Jonathan Coleman MP
National Party Associate Health Spokesman (Mental Health)

27 September 2006

Common sense needed in mental health staffing

A common-sense approach to mental health staffing is needed to ensure that service provision is maintained, says National's Associate Health spokesman (Mental Health), Dr Jonathan Coleman.

He is commenting on a decision by Otago DHB to pay out $60,000 to two experienced enrolled nurses in order to remove them from their jobs following a Health Ministry reminder that enrolled nurses cannot work in acute care.

"It just doesn't make sense," says Dr Coleman.

"Here's a DHB with a shortage of experienced mental health staff having to make two competent and experienced enrolled nurses redundant because they don't fulfil the technical requirements of the Ministry of Health.

"Patient safety must always come first, but mental health nursing is an area where experience is what really counts. All this is going to mean is that Otago DHB is two nurses short in acute mental health, and it's cost them $60,000 to arrive at that lamentable situation.

"A major problem in mental health staffing is that the level of qualification for working in the sector is being raised, excluding many experienced mental health workers. Not only are the staff not available, but even if they were, many mental health providers could not afford to employ them.

"Pete Hodgson should spend a little less time on amateur political commentary and Labour Party strategising, and a bit more time addressing the real problems in mental health. "National says there is an important place in the health workforce for enrolled nurses. At a time when there are workforce shortages everywhere, we should be making best use of the great experience and service of these health professionals."


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