District Health Boards have asked the Employment Court to help resolve a disagreement about ensuring emergency cover during strike action by nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants.
The news comes as the New Zealand Nurses Organisation formally declared strike action for Thursday, August 19, after rejecting the latest pay offer by the district health boards.
DHB’s spokesperson Dale Oliff says DHBs says it’s critical the matter is resolved before then.
“The law requires DHBs and the NZNO to work together and make sure there are enough people with the right specialist skills to cover emergency and essential services during strikes.
“During the strikes in June, and those threatened in July, NZNO refused to guarantee making the agreed number of skilled union members available, even though it had signed agreements confirming the support was needed. All it would do was to use its “best endeavours”.
“We work with NZNO to agree how many of its members we need to provide LPS. Once those agreements are reached, we expect NZNO to honour them.”
In response to the concerns, the Nurses Organisation says they will ensure there are enough nurses to provide live-preserving services. Read more here.
Dale says DHBs are worried the NZNO approach will put the safety of patients and other staff at risk.
“This is too important to leave to chance – we need this resolved as soon as possible to ensure we can keep patients and other staff safe,” she says
“We respect NZNO members’ right to strike – that’s not in question. More importantly, we both have a duty to protect patients and staff if the strike goes ahead.
“DHBs will reduce demand as much as possible by deferring non-acute and elective procedures so we can provide emergency and essential services.
“Doctors, allied health teams and nursing staff who are not NZNO members will come to work as normal, but we will still need the skills and services of some NZNO members.
“The NZNO members involved will be paid for their time and providing emergency cover will not affect their pay talks – this is about preserving life and preventing disability.
Dale says emergency and essential services will be available during the strike and that people should not delay seeking medical treatment or going to hospital if the matter is urgent.
“If the strikes go ahead, people will still be able to call 111 for emergencies or an ambulance. They will also still be able to visit their GP or local pharmacy or call Healthline on 0800 611 116,” she says.