An investigation into a Whanganui surgeon's 16-hour long shift says no patients were placed at risk and does not recommend extended shifts be stopped from happening in the future.

A statement from the Whanganui District Health Board says working long hours are sometimes required depending on the number and type of on-call work, and that staff who feel fatigued can ask for help.

It also says the staff member who worked a 16-hour shift was a theatre nurse, and not a surgeon, as first thought.

When raised with the board in July that a surgeon had worked a 16-hour shift
chief executive Julie Patterson said "it should not have happened" and that working that many hours came with an element of risk, and it was a concern. She promised an investigation.


But yesterday, in a statement following those enquiries, Ms Patterson said long hours were sometimes a requirement of the job.

"The WDHB can confirm that a theatre nurse worked a 16-hour work period as stated in a recent Health and Safety Report discussed by the Board," Ms Patterson said. The DHB has reviewed the circumstances and was satisfied that patient and staff safety were not compromised, she said.

Mrs Patterson said that in Theatre Services, the acute team work an eight-hour afternoon shift finishing at 10pm Monday to Friday but remain on-call through to 8am each morning.

At weekends, the acute team in theatre work an eight-hour shift finishing at 5pm and also remain on-call through to 8.30am the following morning.

"The base eight hours worked is dependent on what cases present during the previous on-call period. This time is added to the eight-hour shift worked, so if there is a run of acute cases these hours could build up," the statement said.

"Staff are aware that if they are fatigued, they can request support and this does happen from time-to-time."

Ms patterson said that the management team in theatre are encouraged to ensure they are proactive in ensuring the on-call teams know they can do this should they have more than expected acute cases.

Board member Judith MacDonald said in July she would like to know if there was some kind of culture behind the long shift.

Ms Patterson said the result of the inquiry would be on the agenda for the next health board meeting on September 15 (Friday).