Wellington Hospital ED nurses issue notice to management to fix unsafe working conditions

Kristin Hall
Source: 1News

Nurses at Wellington Hospital’s emergency department have issued a notice to management to fix unsafe working conditions at the department as it struggles with huge demand.

Capital and Coast DHB says there have been capacity issues for months, with the emergency department regularly exceeding “well over 100 per cent occupancy”.

It seems the issues have now come to a head, with the emergency department’s health and safety representative issuing a provisional improvement notice or PIN to the DHB after multiple alleged safety breaches last Tuesday night.

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The notice says nurses were unable to physically see all the patients that night or separate vulnerable patients from one another.

It says there were no systems in place to manage more than 35 after-hours patients in ED safely.

The notice also says there was a risk of injury to nurses in the waiting room, and not enough security orderlies on staff to support nurses in an incident. 

The DHB has two more days to address the issues or WorkSafe could be brought in.

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation’s Wellington representative, Jo Coffey, says last Tuesday was far from the worst day the department has seen recently, but it was the final straw.

“It’s significant… It’s rare that they've done a PIN but it just goes to show the nurses are at the end of their tether and sick of the short staffing in there.”

1 NEWS has spoken to multiple former and current ED nurses who say they’ve experienced burnout and dangerous conditions in the department.

Current ED nurses say they’ve been receiving texts every day, sometimes multiple times a day, about shift cover due to lack of staff. 

Emergency nurse Craig Jenkin has worked at Wellington ED for 17 years and says the last week has been the busiest of his career, partly due to the RSV outbreak.

“The ED that I work in has got X amount of rooms and there are often Y amount of patients and X and Y never add up,” he said.

“Currently there is an unprecedented amount of paediatric respiratory illnesses coming in and that is definitely pushing the paediatric service and also the emergency department…to the brink.”

The CCDHB’s chief medical officer John Tait says the DHB is responding to the safety notice.

“We are currently working to implement a tested and monitored procedure to ensure safe clinical staffing during periods of exceptional demand, to ensure ED has access to security orderly support during these periods, and we are reviewing ED’s visitor policy to prevent overcrowding by visitors and support people and to mitigate overcrowding if prevention is unsuccessful.

“We aim for these measures to be implemented by the end of this week.”