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DHBs' pay offer lacking and will put patients at risk — Christchurch Hospital nurses

Christchurch nurses say if district health boards don’t start acknowledging the value and worth of their knowledge and experience, patients will be put at risk because staffing shortages will continue. 

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Nikki Reid, Karen Batchelor and Claire Johnston say the DHBs' collective agreement offer is lacking and won’t help attract new talent. Source: Breakfast

It comes as DHBs offered an annualised increase of 1.38 per cent for most of the nearly 30,000 DHB nurses of the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) as part of the negotiations of their multi-employer collective agreement. 

The offer falls far below NZNO’s request of DHBs that wages be increased by 17 per cent, and the organisation is expected to turn it down.

Christchurch Hospital clinical nurse specialist Nikki Reid told Breakfast she was unimpressed with the offer. 

The nurse of 40 years said DHBs need to come back with a better offer.

“We are devalued for our knowledge, our skills. We’re severely under resourced.” 

Reid has a master's degree in clinical nursing and is authorised to prescribe medicines. But she said she got “no compensation, be it financial, be it professional development … no recognition for that”.

There is a lack of staff and resources at Christchurch Hospital, and the same is true in hospitals around the country, Reid said. 

She said that is despite the hospital seeing more patients with increasingly complex needs that require a lot of time from nurses. 

Clinical nurse specialist Claire Johnston, who has been in the job for more than 35 years, said staff has to constantly be moved around to fill gaps in the workforce. 

“The staffing’s never been as bad as it’s been this year in Christchurch Hospital.”

Fellow clinical nurse specialist Karen Batchelor, who is part of the team negotiating with DHBs, said the overwhelming amount of work nurses face means it is hard for her to recommend the profession. 

“The under-resourcing not only means that we’re short-staffed on the floor, we’re short-staffed in the community. … It also means that when people look at a career, we’re not going to attract people into nursing,” the nurse of 30 years said. 

The DHBs’ current pay offer also means it is hard to keep nurses, especially those in senior positions, she said.

She said because of a lack of staff, nurses have to rush from one task to another. 

“They heard us, but they weren’t hearing us,” she said of the 1.38 per cent offer.

“Patients are at risk. It has a direct impact on our patients in the community, in the hospitals, in any facility.”