Patient safety ‘priority’ during nurses’ strike
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.