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Nurses Say Cuts To Hospital-based Services Will Impact Care

Nurses have made themselves heard loud and clear in their responses to a survey on the impact of cuts to hospital-based health services.

Te Whatu Ora regions are being asked to collectively save $105 million by July using ‘cost containment’ methods including banning double shifts, pressure to take leave, non-replacement of sick staff and wiping unfilled roles. The Minister of Health has said that none of the cut saving methods will impact the level of care patients will receive.

However, nurses who work on the frontline beg to differ.

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa (NZNO) recently invited its Te Whatu Ora members to share their thoughts on how they thought the cuts to hospital-based health services would impact their health, safety and wellbeing at work. They were also asked how the cuts will impact on their ability to care for patients.

Nursing delegates from Auckland met with Andrew Slater, Chief People Officer, Te Whatu Ora on Friday to share their stories of the challenges they are facing and present him with a booklet containing feedback from the 925 nurses who responded to the survey.

NZNO Chief Executive Paul Goulter said respondents have made themselves heard loud and clear.

"Overwhelmingly, they said the cuts will impact negatively on what is already a very difficult working environment. Their key concern is that understaffing is already chronic and at crisis level, and that cuts to services will exacerbate that situation.

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"As well as understaffing leading to burnout, nurses fear it poses real risks of harm to patients in their care. Responses were heartfelt and reflect the passion they have for their profession, but many are at breaking point and are considering leaving nursing or going overseas for better pay and conditions."

One registered nurse from Auckland said, "I believe these cuts will absolutely prevent us as nurses from providing quality care to our patients and their whanau. Tired and overworked nurses will be forced to give bare minimum, contributing to prolonged admissions, increased incidents and patient complaints. I believe this will also impact the mental wellbeing of charge nurses who will feel they won’t be able to care for their staff as well as they should."

Mr Goulter says we are still in a nursing crisis.

"Figures NZNO recently received under the Official Information Act are genuinely alarming. During the year ending 31 December 2023, more than a quarter of nursing shifts were below target staffing numbers, and some wards operated below safe staffing levels nearly all of the time.

"This has to change for the sake of our nurses and the patients in their care. We call upon the Government to address the staffing problem by funding proper patient care for our loved ones and whānau in Budget 2024."

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