The Southern DHB is so cash-strapped it is failing to fill nursing rosters, Labour’s Associate Health spokesperson David Clark says.
“Every day emergency department nurses arrive at work knowing they are likely to be carrying more than their recommended workload.
“Nurses have a duty of care and are loyal to the core, so they have put up with additional work and growing stress every day for the last few years. However patient and nurse safety is compromised when professionally recommended staffing ratios are not maintained.
“That’s not helped by the increasing numbers of people turning up at EDs because they can’t afford to go to their own doctor.
“Australasian studies suggest emergency departments maintain a minimum 1:3 nurse to patient ratio of immediately available staff. When a patient is critical more nurses are required. Three nurses are required for each critical patient, leaving fewer available for subsequent patients.
“A stretch ratio of 1:4 is typically operated during shifts at the emergency department in Dunedin, with a 1:5 ratio common at night.
“But it gets worse. A ratio of 1:10 is not unheard of on night shift. On Sunday just past, the nurse to patient ratio dropped to 1:8 for close on an hour. In such situations, one or two critical patients can tie up much of the available staffing resource, leaving the care of subsequent ED arrivals compromised.
“A first-world health system should not put nurses in situations that blatantly breach professional standards. Their goodwill cannot be abused forever, and patient safety is at stake.
“It is clear that National’s underfunding of health is putting patient lives at risk. Labour’s investment in health will ease the pressure on EDs by providing free GP visits to thousands more Kiwis,” David Clark said.