Public hospital nurses need for a ‘clear plan’ to relieve staffing pressures before winter hits is acknowledged by the DHB’s lead chief executive in the current pay talks stalemate.

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation yesterday announced that its DHB nurse, midwife and health care assistant members had rejected a revised pay offer from the 20 DHBs .  Cee Payne, NZNO industrial services manager, also announced NZNO was launching a national campaign in the lead-up to a likely strike ballot – on possibly a series of 24 hour strikes – if a deal cannot be reached that meets distressed nurses’ concern about pay and safe staffing.

Ashley Bloomfield, the spokesperson for the 20 DHBs, said the two parties had agreed to meet at short notice this afternoon – following the prompting from the Prime Minister at her post-cabinet press conference yesterday – to try and find a way forward without resorting to strike action.

Bloomfield, the acting chief executive of Capital & Coast DHB, said he saw in his role, as did his fellow DHB CEOs, that pay was one aspect of the current dispute but the other was the sense that nurses were under pressure on hospital wards and other areas.

He said DHBs had the message that nurses wanted a much high level of confidence that DHBs would deliver on the safe staffing CCDM (care capacity demand management) tools.

He said the commitment from the DHBs under the latest offer – to implementing CCDM by 2021 – was clear and strong and DHBs would be holding each other accountable for doing that “and I expect the Government will also”.

“But I think nurses are also looking for some options around relief in the more immediate here and now.”  Asked whether he had any options he said was “open”.  “I don’t have any clever ideas.  I think if there were easy solutions we would have had those on the table.”

“But that’s exactly one of the things that we will be discussing when get back around the table with NZNO.”  He said of course the options considered would require thinking about the number and mix of staff in the wards and areas feeling the most pressure.

“The pressure is here and now – winter is not far away and I think nurses will want to feel a sense that there’s some really clear plans to help relieve the pressure.”

He also said that the rejected pay offer was right at the extent of affordability for DHBs.  He said so if it had to “go further with the pay side” of the offer than it would obviously need to talk very closely with the Ministry of Health and the health minister.

Bloomfield said each additional 1 per cent pay rise for the 20 DHBs nurses, midwives and health care assistants was about $17 million and also had a flow-on effect to other nurses including those working for DHB-funded providers in the community

He added that DHBs were committed to the pay equity process – which remains on the table – and the outcome of that claim that would come into effect from July 2019.

“Probably what nurses are thinking is that the (pay equity claim) outcome is uncertain and it’s still a wee way of…they probably see it as separate from the here and now of their pay and conditions.”


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