Nurses are coming to work scared and vulnerable, fearing something bad will happen to their patients because of dire staff shortages, a Christchurch Hospital nurse says.
Clinical nurse specialist Karen Batchelor's comments come as nurses yesterday rejected the latest DHB pay offer, meaning planned strikes for 19 August (8 hours) and 9-10 September (24 hours) will go ahead unless an acceptable offer is made.
Nurses have been fighting for a 17 per cent pay increase, and while the latest pay offer was welcome, advocates and NZNO members said it failed to address the chronic and systemic safe staffing issues that have long plagued the profession, causing retainment issues and severe burnout.
Batchelor this morning told Breakfast they needed more than just "words on paper", adding that nurses were calling for concrete evidence that conditions would improve.
"Our members have stood together this time and said loud and clear that whilst the pay was there, that the safe staffing for everyone involved in nursing is by far the issue that is phenomenal for us all," she said.
"Every day nurses are going to work scared, vulnerable, incredibly worried that something tragic is going to happen to their patients in their care because there are not enough staff.
It's not sustainable for the public of New Zealand for us to be nursing in this environment.- Karen Batchelor
"They're doing double shifts, there's constant text messaging going out saying 'we're short staffed, can someone cover?' It's not sustainable for the public of New Zealand for us to be nursing in this environment."
Batchelor has been working in her current employment for more than 25 years, but said in the current conditions she and other healthcare workers aren't able to do their work to their full potential.
"The patients, whilst they see nurses there they don't know what they don't know. They don't know if they're not getting the care that they actually deserve or the care that makes the nurses proud to look after them," she said.
"Nurses don't want to go on strike but we need to so the public is aware of the critical understaffing that the New Zealand nursing profession is facing."
However, DHB spokesperson Dale Oliff yesterday said the district health boards were surprised a package of over $400 million had been rejected.
"We're willing to consider different ways of shaping the settlement, but the union needs to engage in a meaningful way," he said.
"Negotiation involves a degree of realism and compromise, DHBs have shown we're prepared to move and I'd urge the NZNO and its members to reconsider their position."
But NZNO lead advocate David Wait, also on Breakfast this morning, said nurses "have been compromising for a number of years".
"There have been commitments made around safe staffing in the past, there'd been commitment made around undervaluation, addressing undervaluation, in the past - they haven't been met and so we've compromised for a long time.
"I think where our members are right now is that they're making a stand for the profession, making a stand so that we can have a nursing profession that is strong and able to provide quality care."