5. More money needed for safe health staffing

NZNO Chief Executive Memo Musa signs the safe staffing accord. Photo: Thomas Coughlan

Achieving safe staffing levels in hospitals by 2021 will be a challenge and will require extra resources, according to signatories of a safe staffing accord signed today.

DHBs, the New Zealand Nurses Organisation, and the Ministry of Health signed a joint accord at Parliament this morning to ensure safe staffing levels in hospitals.

The agreement will see the implementation of the Care Capacity Demand Management tool (CCDM). The tool allows DHBs to see what safe staffing levels will be required on their wards ahead of time, allowing them to plan to meet demand.

But all parties acknowledged that it would be a challenge to fully implement the tool and appropriate staffing by 2021.

Health Minister David Clark said that additional resource would be needed to fund the extra nurses, but this would come from future increases to DHBs' budgets.

“This will require further resource, but our health system requires further resource every year,” Clark said.

“Every year there are more nurses put in play, but the story that CCDM tells us is that we need more still,” he said.

Nurses will begin voting tomorrow on a fifth wage offer, worth $530 million. An additional 500 nurses to help with safe staffing are already part of that agreement. It is understood that persistent understaffing at hospitals has been a primary concern of nurses at negotiations.

Chief Executive of Tairawhiti DHB, Jim Green, who represented DHBs at the signing said nurses were already being recruited to fill the additional 500 places.

CCDM — a decade in the making.

Work on CCDM was begun in 2009 by the Safe Staffing Healthy Workplaces Unit, which was developed after an agreement between DHBs and nurses, but the tool was never fully implemented.

Green said that it was already in use throughout the country, but the level of its implementation varied depending on location.

“There’s varying degrees of implementations thought the country,” he said.

CCDM takes several data points and looks at demand pressures over the previous twelve months to measure sustainable staffing levels.

Green the tool could plot ““virtually shift by shift, hour by hour the amount of work that is going on” so that supply could be matched to demand. He said that in his own DHB he gets three reports a day on staffing levels.

Earlier implementation may have avoided breakdown

Chief executive of NZNO Memo Musa said the current breakdown in relations between nurses and DBHs might have been avoided.

“If it had happened three or four years ago we possibly wouldn’t be standing here signing this accord because the problem would have been solved much earlier," he said.

He said that some nurses were feeling positive about CCDM’s implementation, feeling that their voices were heard. He said that others would be waiting to see results.

Voting on the most recent pay deal closes at 5pm on Monday 6 August.