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No hospital roles lost after review

Janice Clayton

No permanent Oamaru Hospital staff are expected to lose their jobs as a result of the Waitaki District Health Services' controversial "proposal for change'' review, it has been announced.

Waitaki District Health Services (WDHS) yesterday announced decisions made after a consultation period as part of its proposed staffing restructure and changes to the layout of Oamaru Hospital, including all nursing roles to be disestablished and reappointed.

Consultation closed in late March after it was extended by about two weeks, which resulted in 185 individual submissions.

In a statement yesterday, WDHS chairman Chris Swann said feedback from staff was an essential part of the process.

"This feedback has been carefully listened to and components of the original proposal have been amended accordingly.''

WDHS chief executive Ruth Kibble said permanent staff levels were expected to be retained under the modified review.

"Some roles will change, but the changes will optimise the balance between operational and clinical leadership resources. These changes will place us in the strongest position to continue to deliver health services for the people of Waitaki now, and into the future,'' Mrs Kibble said.

The WDHS staffing announcement was welcome news for Waitaki Community Hospital Action Group chairwoman Dr Janice Clayton, but she said concerns remained around safe staffing levels and the ongoing security of services.

Dr Clayton, who worked at the hospital for about two years as nursing manager, said the "hostile'' proposal document had already induced an exodus of staff and remaining staff were stretched.

There were questions around how those gaps would be filled and how the shortage of rural doctors would be addressed to reduce the costs of using locums. There were also no assurances over securing key hospital services short or long term - or details on how costs would be cut to reduce the current deficit.

As a result of the consultation period, the nurse leader role would be changed to director of nursing and operations who would co-ordinate Allied Health groups; all Allied Health, that would also have designated professional leaders.

"The devil will be in the detail of the remuneration of that, and how their workload is attributed ... It makes for a very tough workload - that's my concern,'' Dr Clayton said.

Staff would pick up "clinical workload'' hours after plans for additional full-time-equivalent staff for quality improvement projects were scrapped.

The nurse educator role has been retained.

Proposed changes to administration have been put on hold and hospital aides and Allied Health assistants would become health assistants, which would result in an increase in the number of full-time-equivalent roles.

The emergency department would now be called the acute care area and act as the hospital's emergency department, resuscitation, observation and stabilisation area.

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said said he believed the new structure would improve clinical and financial sustainability.

The changes would be rolled out over the coming weeks.

A protest march about the proposal for change, scheduled for April 13 from 1pm, would still go ahead, Dr Clayton said.

"We know the funding is behind this ... We need to put these things out in this march and make it clear to people that we're not downing tools in any shape or form until we see more money coming into this area and we're not hearing the stories that we're hearing about people struggling to get the healthcare that they need.''

The march starts at the Oamaru Farmers' Market car park and ends at Takaro Park.

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