Pa­tient safety ‘pri­or­ity’ dur­ing nurses’ strike

Marlborough Express - - FRONT PAGE -

As 27,000 nurses and mid­wives pre­pare to strike next month, some are con­cerned what their ab­sence will mean for the safety of pa­tients.

On Wed­nes­day, the New Zealand Nurses Or­gan­i­sa­tion (NZNO) is­sued no­tice for a ‘‘full with­drawal of labour’’ for 24 hours on July 5, after dis­sat­is­fac­tion with the out­come of salary ne­go­ti­a­tions.

The no­tice is the lat­est in their fight for bet­ter pay and bet­ter work­ing con­di­tions – but it does not mean a strike is def­i­nitely go­ing ahead.

If it does, it would be the first in nearly 30 years. Which begs the ques­tion, how would hos­pi­tals han­dle the strike? And what does it mean for pa­tients?

Each district health board will have a plan in place de­tail­ing who is work­ing, who is not and who they need, NZNO in­dus­trial ser­vices man­ager Cee Payne said.

NZNO has been work­ing with DHBS on con­tin­gency plans for some weeks. A timetable kicked in after the strike no­tice was an­nounced, which would see plans ironed out as soon as pos­si­ble, she said.

Now the process has started, DHBS will be ‘‘putting in bids’’ re­gard­ing what ser­vices they need cover for and the NZNO will re­spond.

All col­lec­tive mem­bers – be­tween 93 and 95 per cent of New Zealand’s nurses – are legally al­lowed to strike.

Staffing emer­gency and es­sen­tial ser­vices will be the pri­or­ity, in­clud­ing ‘‘life pre­serv­ing’’ ser­vices. Th­ese in­clude in­ten­sive care unit staff or staff needed for ur­gent di­ag­nos­tic pro­ce­dures or op­er­a­tions. Payne was not able to con­firm at this point how many peo­ple this would in­volve, but said staffing num­bers would be de­cided be­fore the strike took place.

Should a strike hap­pen, it would be ‘‘fairly or­derly’’, Payne said. There will be staff ros­tered and on call, some who won’t be phys­i­cally lo­cated in the hos­pi­tal.

Oth­ers will be avail­able by phone in the case of a ma­jor in­ci­dent, Payne said. There will also be a na­tional co-or­di­na­tion team work­ing closely with DHBS in ‘‘con­tin­ued di­a­logue’’.

She an­tic­i­pated DHBS would also look to re­duce the num­ber of peo­ple at­tend­ing public hos­pi­tals, re­fer­ring pa­tients to other fa­cil­i­ties where pos­si­ble.

Staff on strike would be ‘‘vo­cal’’ and tak­ing part in var­i­ous ac­tiv­i­ties, she said.

DHB spokes­woman Helen Mason said the safety of pa­tients and staff was a pri­or­ity.

‘‘Our aim is to keep ev­ery­one safe dur­ing the strike – pa­tients and staff alike – and that means sig­nif­i­cant changes to nor­mal ser­vices,’’ Mason said.

De­spite the strike, peo­ple should not de­lay seek­ing med­i­cal treat­ment or go­ing to hos­pi­tal if the mat­ter is ur­gent, she said.

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