Starship Hospital cost-cutting exercise sparks backlash


It's believed a cost-cutting exercise at Auckland's Starship Hospital could put children suffering from debilitating illnesses at risk.

Emails obtained by Newshub indicate the Auckland District Health Board (ADHB) is forcing nurse specialists to work part of the week in wards, in an attempt to re-balance its $500,000 budget deficit.

Nurse specialists provide consultation, treatment advice and care for families with children suffering from illnesses such as diabetes and cancer.

Many haven't worked in wards for decades but will be required to for one to two days a week indefinitely from October 10.

New Zealand Nurse's Organisation industrial advisor Leslie Harry says there are some serious concerns about the plan.

"It's going to increase the workload of those senior nurses significantly, but also the nurse leadership capability," she says.

"A lot of the nurses have contacted us about their concerns about their workload, and also the impact on patients.

"What we'd like to do is engage with our DHB and engage with our members around what they think would be useful ways of saving money without actually affecting the frontline nursing services."

Many nurses fear the proposal could cut one-on-one patient time up by to a third.

ADHB spokesperson Suzanne Stephenson says it's about ensuring the right staff in the right place at the right time.

"We will be utilising our own staff in the first instance to reduce our use of bureau staff and external agencies wherever possible," she says.

"This has involved asking them to help out one or two days per week in their ward or department to cover any shortfalls. We do not want to interfere with other patient scheduled activities senior nurses undertake."

Ms Stephenson insists the ADHB has worked closely with the nurse's union about using nurse specialists to fill gaps in ward rosters.

However, Ms Harry says staff were blindsided.

"Our reaction was: why don't we know about it, why haven't we been consulted and why haven't we had the opportunity to respond and raise our concerns with the DHB before the decision was made," she says.