Twit­ter ‘ad­vice’ sees DHB apol­o­gise

Manawatu Standard - - Front Page - MIRI SCHROETER AND PAUL MITCHELL

A tweet sent out by Mid­cen­tral District Health Board en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to work through fa­tigue has some won­der­ing how it could get its mo­ti­va­tional mes­sag­ing so wrong.

‘‘Don’t stop when you’re tired. Stop when you are done,’’ was the ‘‘mo­ti­va­tional Mon­day’’ Twit­ter mes­sage posted.

The post aimed to give peo­ple a ‘‘lit­tle en­cour­age­ment’’ for the start of the week, but Twit­ter users found it in­ap­pro­pri­ate from an or­gan­i­sa­tion that deals with over­worked med­i­cal staff.

Mid­cen­tral has since apol­o­gised and deleted the mes­sage, but unions say the apol­ogy rings hol­low with over­worked doc­tors, nurses and med­i­cal tech­ni­cians.

Res­i­dent Doc­tors’ As­so­ci­a­tion na­tional sec­re­tary Dr Deb­o­rah Pow­ell said that, even as a mis­take, the tweet high­lighted an ‘‘ar­chaic’’ at­ti­tude towards over­work.

Last year, 120 Palmer­ston North doc­tors joined a na­tion­wide strike to protest be­ing over­worked.

Just over a year later, and nine months af­ter reach­ing a set­tle­ment to end the strikes, the same ros­ters were still in place, Pow­ell said.

‘‘This apol­ogy will ring hol­low for staff on the ground. It would ap­pear the DHB hasn’t learned a thing [af­ter the strikes].’’

In late 2016, Palmer­ston North Hos­pi­tal was short by 41 po­si­tions, in­clud­ing 10 in the emer­gency de­part­ment, and the is­sue of tired staff is still fes­ter­ing.

Other tweets in the lon­grun­ning se­ries have im­plored peo­ple to be kind to un­kind peo­ple and ad­vised ‘‘fall seven times – get up eight’’. One timed to co­in­cide with the school hol­i­days said ‘‘Chill! (It’s only) chaos’’.

As­so­ci­a­tion of Salaried Med­i­cal Spe­cial­ists na­tional sec­re­tary Jeff Brown, who lives in Palmer­ston North, said the lat­est tweet was ‘‘ab­so­lutely in­ap­pro­pri­ate’’ from a district health board, and par­tic­u­larly ill-timed and tone-deaf.

‘‘It’s been a hell of a win­ter. Staff have been go­ing above and be­yond to deal with the kind of work­load that we’ve never seen be­fore.’’

Iron­i­cally, Brown was re­turn­ing from an in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ence on pro­tect­ing med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als’ well­be­ing when he came across the gaffe.

Brown said it was im­por­tant that med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als looked af­ter them­selves be­cause over­work led to more mis­takes and staff burnout.

‘‘The in­ter­na­tional re­search shows the first signs of burnout are a lack of com­pas­sion and a rise of cyn­i­cism. Those are ab­so­lutely the last qual­i­ties you want to see in our health pro­fes­sion­als.’’

Brown said Mid­cen­tral may have deleted the tweet and apol­o­gised, but the state­ment was left to stand for 24 hours. It was go­ing to take a lot of work to re­pair the dam­age done to the pub­lic and staff’s trust in the health board.

Mid­cen­tral chief ex­ec­u­tive Kathryn Cook said Mid­cen­tral gen­uinely re­gret­ted post­ing the mo­ti­va­tional Mon­day tweet.

‘‘A ju­nior staff mem­ber posted this tweet with good in­ten­tions and we let that per­son down as our usual re­view process did not oc­cur.

‘‘We have apol­o­gised to all staff and this was a sin­cere apol­ogy.’’

Mid­cen­tral was com­mit­ted to pro­vid­ing safe ros­ters for res­i­dent med­i­cal of­fi­cers and all staff, she said.

‘‘The an­nual changeover of res­i­dent med­i­cal of­fi­cers oc­curs be­tween now and the end of the cal­en­dar year, and we are on track to im­ple­ment five of six new, safe hours ros­ters.’’

Mid­cen­tral’s staff turnover was 9.1 per cent – one of the low­est in the coun­try, Cook said.

Mid­cen­tral also wrote an apol­ogy on Twit­ter and Face­book on Tues­day evening.

Twit­ter user Nick Phillips said the mes­sage made Mid­cen­tral look in­com­pe­tent.

‘‘I tried very hard to write the least of­fen­sive re­ply I could that would, with luck, lead them to re­alise just how stun­ningly in­ap­pro­pri­ate that tweet was.’’

Mid­cen­tral DHB’S tweet didn’t go down well and has since been re­moved.

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