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Middlemore so understaffed it may need to call on army

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) says an emerging crisis at Middlemore Hospital demonstrates the serious problems district health boards (DHBs) are facing in recruiting and retaining nurses.

On Tuesday ambulances to Middlemore were diverted to Auckland and Northshore Hospitals due to a lack of capacity, including lack of beds, understaffing and the emergency department being under pressure. Counties Manukau DHB has requested nurses from Auckland DHB to provide emergency relief.

However, it has been confirmed to NZNO that Auckland Hospital is also at full capacity and has suggested that Counties Manukau DHB request emergency assistance from the New Zealand Defence Force instead.

NZNO Organiser Justine Sachs said this sort of thing happening outside of a civil emergency situation should send alarm bells to those holding the purse strings and responsible for resource and workforce planning.

"Nurses are at breaking point; many telling us they are leaving the profession or going to work overseas because of intolerable workloads.

"Delays caused by diverting ambulances to other hospitals puts patients at serious risk and puts pressure on other hospitals also struggling to cope because they are under-staffed and under-resourced."

Ms Sachs said increased demand on the public health system should be expected during the winter season and that contingency plans that include having options for patients to being admitted in other hospitals and sufficient nurses on staff should be in place to cope with increased demand.

"Given the enormous stress on our under-resourced health system it’s frightening to contemplate how hospitals in the Auckland region would cope should there be a significant catastrophic event."


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