Health minister says flu, staff absences cause of new hospital pressures – Stuff

Hospitals are facing intense strain as a result of high numbers of flu and never-before-seen staff absences, Health Minister Andrew Little says, leaving the health system under immense pressure more than a week before its new regime is due to start.
District health boards –which will no longer exist after the new entity Health New Zealand begins operations next Friday – say specialist shortages mean they are unable to provide safe, quality care to patients, with one board saying it needs 50% more doctors to keep up with demand.
Staff are on the brink of exhaustion after two years of pandemic-related pressures and there are thousands of nursing vacancies around the country. Counties Manukau District Health Board is investigating a woman’s death after she left the emergency department due to long waits.
Little said the Government had funded an extra 4000 nursing roles, but he wasn’t sure how many had been filled, and health funding had increased by 25% since it took office. However, there was a staffing shortage.
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“We’ve done everything we can to put the additional funding into our hospital system so that it provides the services that New Zealand needs,” he said.
“We do have a staffing shortage, but we also have a flu season of at a level that we haven’t seen for the last couple of years and we have staff absenteeism at a level that we’ve never experienced before.”
Hospitals had predicted a flu spike in late June and over July, but Covid-19 numbers were supposed to have dropped further than they have. “Things have happened outside their predictions,” he said.
But National Party health spokesman Dr Shane Reti said it was “terrible timing” to try and restructure the health system in the middle of a pandemic.
“What we’re seeing is the system slowly break, unfortunately, across all areas: across primary care, and now across secondary care,” he said.
He said data showed hospitals were short about 3000 nurses and 300 midwives – about 23% of their workforce.
“Show me one ED, show me one DHB, that is not in crisis,” he said.
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