Bay of Plenty District Health Board is under “particular pressure”, Health Minister Andrew Little said today when asked if nurses were operating at unsafe staffing levels.
It comes as the Government has approved funding for a pay equity claim for nurses, with nurses, DHBs and the Ministry of Health urged to start negotiations straight away.
Making the announcement at a press conference, Health Minister Andrew Little was asked if hospitals were operating at unsafe staffing levels.
Little confirmed Tauranga and Whakatāne Hospital had been under “particular pressure”.
“Some hospitals have been under particular pressure, Capital and Coast is one of them and Bay of Plenty is one too and Waikato is another, partly because of the IT outage.
“But not every hospital has been under the same level of pressure.”
The Bay of Plenty DHB has been approached for comment.
The Bay of Plenty Times earlier reported that DHBs were under pressure as they prepare for nurses striking – but it was the same pressure facing nurses each and every shift, a Bay of Plenty nurse claimed.
Rebekah Opie said at the time, nurses were regularly working shifts that were bordering on “unsafe”.
This Thursday, nurses are expected to strike after rejecting an almost $1 billion offer in the last round of negotiations. It was to address pay and workforce issues, a spokesman for collective DHBs said.
On the strikes, Little said the priority issue for the DHBs and the New Zealand Nurses Organisation was the safety of patients.
“I accept the DHBs and the NZNO have been working very hard to prepare for any industrial action this Thursday.”
Little would not be pushed on how much Cabinet had authorised for the pay equity, but it would be worth “hundreds of millions of dollars a year”.
Tauranga Hospital. Photo / George Novak
The pay equity component of the nurses’ pay deal is separate to the increases to the collective agreement, he said, and had proven more complicated than expected.
The Cabinet decision had given the green light to start those pay equity negotiations in earnest.
He said it would be the most substantial pay equity claim in New Zealand so far, and urged nurses to start negotiating.
“Cabinet now knows and is braced for a significant sum of money that will go towards meeting this ambition,” Little said.
He did not know if it would impact on the likelihood of the nurses going ahead with their strikes set for Thursday, saying the pay equity claim and the collective agreement pay increases and negotiations over staffing and working conditions were two separate negotiations.
After the last rejection, Little issued a strong statement in response, while in a rare move he also released the full details of the pay offer, which is still part of negotiations.