Te Whatu Ora chairman Rob Campbell says a recent visit to Middlemore Hospital’s emergency department gave him a first-hand insight into what it’s like for frontline healthcare workers.
He described the visit in a Q and A session after a board meeting on Friday.
Campbell said the staff he spoke to in the emergency department outlined their concerns about staffing levels, workplace pressures and their pay during a Saturday night visit to the ED.
He said while the ED wasn’t operating at “peak surge” levels, it was “very busy” and people were still waiting a couple of hours for treatment.
“The staffing levels were substantially down on what they should have been due to staff absences,” he said.
And he said the waiting room facilities were inadequate for the sheer number of patients coming through the doors.
Campbell said staff stopped to speak to him and highlighted their concerns about the workplace pressures they were operating under.
“But in the main they were focused on getting on with the job in front of them and I was very focused on staying out of their way,” he said.
Campbell said addressing the ongoing staffing shortages and lack of space for patients in the hospital would take time and couldn’t be addressed with short-term solutions.
“But the more staff we can get in the better, and we are doing everything we can about that.”
A damning report into the Middlemore Hospital ED last month described it as unsafe for patients and staff.
The report was part of an independent inquiry into the death of a patient in June - after a woman left Middlemore’s ED after being told it would take hours for her to be seen.
It was written by Dr André Cromhout, an emergency physician from Te Whatu Ora (Capital, Coast and Hutt Valley), who said the Middlemore ED was overcrowded and operating “well over acceptable capacity”.
“This is an unsafe environment for both patients and staff and is not sustainable.”
A spokesperson for the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) said it was pleased to hear Campbell had visited Middlemore’s ED to see the pressure frontline health workers were operating under.
“Our members have been voicing these concerns for some time. We appreciate his obvious concern and hope that will help Te Whatu Ora and the Government to work with us towards long-term solutions.
“We agree there is little available in terms of short-term solutions beyond internationally qualified nurses and encouraging past nurses back into the workforce.”
The spokesperson said even though such solutions weren’t sustainable in the long-term, it was now more important than ever that internationally qualified nurses were given a fast track to residency.
“There also needs to be more active recruitment of nursing students in Aotearoa New Zealand, with a particular focus on Māori and Pasifika so we can grow a workforce that is able to provide culturally appropriate health care,” he said.
“There are long-term solutions and we believe the Government should be pulling out all the stops to put these in place.”