A woman was left lying in a hospital bed soaked in her own urine for 14 hours, while another patient was forced to wait for eight hours in the emergency department of an Auckland hospital, the Herald has been told.
The allegations come as North Shore Hospital battles near-capacity and significant staffing pressures — and a day after the Government announced a plan to boost the number of health workers by easing the process for overseas nurses and provision of up to $10,000 in financial support.
A woman who spoke to the Herald on condition of anonymity, claims last week her mum, who was admitted to the hospital with sepsis, was left lying in a bed in her own urine for 14 hours.
"The staff are like, 'I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry' and Mum was like, 'I did try to ring the buzzer' and the staff were like, 'oh no, it's not your fault, we are so sorry' — like they've got no staff," the woman said.
A North Shore Hospital spokesperson told the Herald that as at 3pm yesterday the hospital had reached 92 per cent capacity but "was not closed to admissions".
"There is currently high demand for inpatient care at North Shore Hospital — as is always the case during the busy winter season. The same pressures are being felt at hospitals around the country," the spokesperson said.
"However, we are carefully managing our bed capacity so those people who need specialist inpatient care are able to receive it."
While the hospital wouldn't comment on the woman's allegations, it encouraged the public to pass on their concerns around the level of service.
"We always encourage patients to give us feedback on their care, including when things didn't go as we might have hoped," the spokesperson said.
"This enables us to investigate the details of their treatment, provide a full response and make changes to improve where appropriate."
Last month, the Herald reported on an elderly woman huddled in a woollen blanket in the "freezing" wet and cold under a leaky tent at North Shore Hospital.
A nurse's union labelled this the "human cost" of healthcare failure.
"[This] starkly illustrates the very real human cost of successive governments' failure to address the healthcare and nurse staffing crisis," a spokesman for the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) said.
"More nurses would mean more available ward beds and quicker triage, meaning less crowding in ED."
The woman who spoke to the Herald said her mum needed urgent care last week and there was a three-hour wait for an ambulance so she drove her to North Shore Hospital's ED.
When she arrived, she said there were exhausted healthcare workers sat outside rooms almost falling asleep.
"We thank those staff who have been able to work additional shifts to help us manage through this challenging period," the hospital spokesperson said.
"People who present to our emergency departments with low-acuity health needs can expect that they will wait longer for treatment than those whose needs are more urgent."
NZNO president Kerri Nuku told the Herald while she couldn't comment specifically on North Shore Hospital, there were concerns for patient wellbeing due to resource shortages.
"They [hospitals] are short staffed ... we are having to triage who gets support immediately and who doesn't," Nuku said.
"Nurses have feared for a long time that there would be a death as a consequence of not having adequately resourced services. We are absolutely in a crisis, and any nurse who is working in an ED and across the hospital will tell you that."
In a separate social media post yesterday an Auckland woman claimed her daughter, who was suffering from severe abdominal pain, had left North Shore ED after not being seen for eight hours.
On Monday, Health Minister Andrew Little set out a package of measures to try to woo health workers, ranging from using the Shortland Street television soap to offering financial incentives for overseas doctors and nurses to come over.
The Government, however, refused to heed calls to include nurses in Tier 1 of the immigration Green List, which would give them automatic and immediate residency. Nurses are at Tier 2 and must work as nurses for two years before gaining residency.
Little said he had promised addressing the workforce shortages would be his top priority after the health reforms kicked in at the end of June.
The measures include a recruitment programme to get young people into nursing — which will include a campaign with Shortland Street as well as on social media platforms.
"The current health workforce shortages have been decades in the making, but have been exacerbated by Covid-19," Little said.
He said the "package of measures" removed cost barriers for migrants entering the health workforce while ensuring we were training enough people locally in the long-term.
"Our changes to the health system only came into force a month ago, creating a single national health service. That means we can now have a single point of co-ordination and put some real heft into a national campaign to address the decades-old workforce shortage and ease pressure on the health system," Little said.
"These changes just weren't possible under the old disjointed and bureaucratic structure."
National Party's health spokesperson Shane Reti yesterday criticised Little, saying the "stubborn refusal to get nurses the same immigration treatment as multimedia specialists and surveyors mean New Zealanders are missing out on healthcare".
"Minister Little's latest health announcement was clearly rushed and incomplete. Reducing fees for international nurses to register in New Zealand is great, but won't make much difference if we can't attract any to come here in the first place," Reti said.
In June, a "healthy" 50-year-old woman died with brain bleed after allegedly being told by staff at Middlemore Hospital's ED there would be an eight-hour wait before she was examined. She presented with a severe headache at 1am and left due to the wait. By the time she returned it was too late.
The hospital has launched an investigation into the incident. Te Whatu Ora (Health NZ) interim district director for Counties Manukau, Dr Pete Watson, didn't say when those findings were expected but said once the review was complete he would provide a public statement.