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Canterbury and West Coast DHBs planning for 19 August NZNO and MERAS strikes well underway

Friday 13 August 2021Health news4 minutes to read

Canterbury and the West Coast DHBs are implementing contingency plans for the strike action planned by New Zealand Nurses’ Organisation (NZNO) and Midwifery Employee Representation & Advisory Service (MERAS) members on Thursday 19 August.

  • NZNO members are striking for eight hours between 11am and 7pm.
  • MERAS midwives are striking for 12 hours between 8am and 8pm.

NZNO and MERAS members include many of the nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants working for DHBs as well as some working elsewhere in health.

Dr Peter Bramley, Chief Executive for both DHBs, says the number one priority is patient safety, closely followed by minimising the impact on patients.

“Our contingency plans are about rescheduling what isn’t urgent and reducing the demand on the staff who will be working on those days.

“111 calls will be responded to as usual and people should access urgent and emergency care as they normally would – but you can expect staff to be stretched and wait times to be longer,” says Dr Bramley.

Women who are pregnant should contact their Lead Maternity Carer as they would normally if they have concerns or suspect they are in labour.

Acute services will also remain available throughout the period of the planned strike, such as unplanned or emergency surgery, all intensive care units, Oncology and the Renal Dialysis unit and all maternity units. We have agreed plans with the local union representatives to provide life-preserving services (LPS) to ensure patients receive safe and appropriate care during the strike period in all of our areas.

“There are close to 5000 nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants at Canterbury DHB and an estimated 250 or so on the West Coast who may strike. The strikes are expected to cause significant disruption to non-urgent services in both DHB areas and could mean longer waits for acute or emergency care with fewer staff working.

“We apologise in advance for any inconvenience and distress the strike action may cause, while respecting our staff’s right to take industrial action and acknowledging the valued role they play in our health system,” Dr Bramley says.

We have begun contacting people with surgery or outpatient appointments scheduled for just before or during the strike period, and we’re rebooking these appointments to ensure there is sufficient capacity to continue to provide emergency care during the strikes, and to reduce the demand on staff.

Similarly, emergency caesareans will continue to be available to women who need them, but elective (planned) caesareans and inductions of labour will not go ahead unless clinically indicated.

“Our advice to women due on or near the day of the strikes is to stick to the plan you have with your LMC midwife or the hospital clinic. If a maternity-related booking or appointment with us needs to change, we will let you know. If you go into labour, contact your LMC to come in to be assessed.

“Urgent procedures and non-deferrable surgery, such as cancer surgery will be prioritised to go ahead during the planned strike period on a case-by-case basis,” Dr Bramley says.

“We will also be discharging as many patients as is safe ahead of the strike period, reducing the number of people in our care in anticipation of our reduced workforce for the period of the strike.

“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,” he says.

Useful numbers for contacting the appropriate service on the West Coast can be found here: http://www.cdhb.health.nz/Hospitals-Services/hospitals/Pages/default.aspx

Phone numbers for individual Canterbury Hospital sites can be found here:http://www.cdhb.health.nz/Hospitals-Services/hospitals/Pages/default.aspx

We’d like to thank the Canterbury and West Coast communities in advance, for their understanding and support during this period of strike action.

ENDS

For further information, contact:
communications@cdhb.health.nz

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Page last updated: 13 August 2021

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