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  • Nurses criticise emergency targets

    Author: Karen Keast

An injection of funding to increase staffing levels is paramount to providing improved care for New Zealand patients in hospital emergency departments, according to the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO).

The NZNO holds concerns that the government’s emergency departments’ target, which requires 95 per cent of patients to be admitted, discharged or transferred from EDs within six hours, is causing “trouble” throughout the health system.

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The union has called on Health Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman to increase funding to improve safe staffing levels after he raised the issue of Capital and Coast District Health Board’s (DHB) ongoing poor performance in achieving the ED target.

Capital and Coast finished last in the latest health targets summary of the 20 DHBs, falling below the target with a result of 89 per cent.

NZNO associate professional services manager Hilary Graham-Smith urged Dr Coleman to look at the bigger picture.


“Why are patients having to wait in ED for longer than six hours sometimes? Is it because there aren’t enough staff?

“What happens when staff are expected to stick to the target? Are they admitting patients to under-staffed wards?

“Are they moving patients into other units before they have been properly assessed just so that they meet the target? Are staff able to provide the quality and quantity of care required in these circumstances?”

Ms Graham-Smith said systems issues are at fault.

“The Minister, a doctor himself, should be concerned,” she said.

“He should also be concerned that the health workforce, especially staff who (have) been reprimanded for not reaching targets, are feeling seriously demoralised and un-supported.

“Safe staffing is the answer to providing timely, quality and appropriate care to every patient, and funding is the answer to safe staffing.

“NZNO urges Minister Coleman to back his desire for a healthy New Zealand with the funding to make it happen.”

Eleven DHBs met the ED target with West Coast in top position, achieving 99 per cent, followed by Nelson Marlborough and Waitemata, both on 97 per cent, Counties Manukau, South Canterbury, Whanganui, Wairarapa and Tairawhiti all on 96 per cent, while Canterbury, MidCentral and Bay of Plenty achieved 95 per cent.

Nine DHBs fell below the target, including Taranaki, Auckland and Waikato on 94 per cent, along with Southern on 93 per cent, Lakes and Hawke’s Bay on 92 per cent, Northland on 91 per cent, and Hutt Valley on 90 per cent.

The report card shows national performance in shorter stays in emergency departments improved 1.6 per cent to 94.3 per cent.

The report also showed Northland DHB was first in the improved access to elective surgery target, Capital and Coast was top of the list for providing the fastest cancer treatment, and Hawke’s Bay achieved top spot with the increased immunisation target.

Waitemata was top of the list for providing better help for smokers to quit while Auckland claimed the top spot for the heart and diabetes checks target.


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Karen Keast

Karen Keast is a freelance health journalist who writes news and feature articles for HealthTimes.

Karen regularly writes for some of Australia’s leading health news websites and magazines.  In a media career spanning 20 years, Karen has worked as a senior journalist in newspapers and television. She has covered the grind of daily news and worked as a politics reporter at countless state and federal elections.

Since venturing into freelance writing five years ago, Karen has found her niche in writing about the health sector for editors, businesses and corporations.

Karen has interviewed the heads of peak health organisations in Australia and overseas, and written hundreds of news and feature articles covering the dedicated work of health professionals who tread the corridors of hospitals and health services, universities, aged care facilities and practices, day in and day out.

Follow Karen Keast on Twitter @stylemywords