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Canterbury District Health Board, having received an official strike notice confirming that New Zealand Nurses Organisation(NZNO) nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants are planning to strike, has begun to implement contingency plans.
Urgent and emergency care, as well as acute care services, will remain available throughout the period of the planned strikes. This includes, for example, the Emergency Department in Christchurch, Ashburton Hospital’s Acute Admitting Unit, acute surgery, maternity services, all intensive care units, oncology and kidney dialysis services.
The planned industrial action is due to start at 7am on Thursday 5 July and continue until 7am on Friday 6 July (24 hours).
Michael Frampton, chief people officer for Canterbury DHB, says There are close to 5000 nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants employed by Canterbury DHB who may strike, so we anticipate that the strike will severely disrupt non-urgent services.
In preparing for the strike, our number one consideration is patient safety. We are putting a number of measures in place to ensure we can continue to provide urgent and emergency care. Our contingency plans are about rescheduling what isn’t urgent and reducing the demand on the staff who will be working when the strike takes place, Mr Frampton says.
Canterbury DHB’s contingency plans include preparing to postpone non-urgent surgery and outpatient appointments at all Canterbury DHB hospitals, health hubs and health centres. This includes clinics in maternity.
We need to ensure those working during that period are available to care for patients with high and complex needs, as well as those needing emergency care. Women in labour or needing urgent attention will still receive services from both their LMCs and the DHB during the strike, Mr Frampton says.
Urgent procedures, such as cancer surgery, will be prioritised to go ahead during the planned strike period on a case-by-case basis.
The DHB will also be discharging as many patients as possible ahead of the strike period, providing it is safe to do so, and gearing up community support as appropriate.
As all other DHBs are affected by the industrial action, there will be no support expected from them and a limited ability to provide trauma and specialist services in Canterbury to patients from other DHB areas.
By agreement with DHBs, the NZNO will provide nursing/midwifery staff for what are termed “life preserving services”. This agreement provides core minimum staffing in areas where it has been agreed patients could be harmed if nursing services were completely withdrawn.
The DHB will shortly begin the process of notifying people whose appointments may have to be postponed, by letter and by phone.