Hutt Valley’s ageing population has become a health risk to healthcare workers.
It’s simple says Hutt Hospital physiotherapist and Public Services Association delegate Camille McWhirter, the same amount of money can’t be stretched over an ever-increasing number of aged clients. Something eventually has to give.
And right now, it’s her fellow staff members who are snapping.
“Some are reluctant to take leave, including sick leave, or come back to work before they get better, because they don’t want others to pick up the workload,” says McWhirter.
At root, it’s a Government funding issue: “Demand is increasing but there hasn’t been an increase in staff to reflect this,” she says. “We are constantly short staffed because we don’t have cover for annual leave and the remaining staff are always having to do more.”
McWhirter says the pressure means her colleagues are constantly tired and at risk of burn out.
“We don’t have an issue with the DHB (District Health Board), it’s a great place to work,” she says. “It’s Government funding which is limiting care and stretching the workforce.”
Patients are inevitably impacted as tired staff are pressured to get people out faster.
“We have to constantly prioritise which patients are seen, and the treatment we are providing,” she says. “We can’t give locals the care we want to give them.”
A nurse, who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of her job, says staff at Hutt Valley DHB don’t have time to care.
“I was trying help a family mourn their loved one but was busy thinking of the next six things I’d have to do,” she says. “I feel like an awful person but we’re so busy I can’t even pause to breathe.”
“We’re dealing with all these hideous things but we don’t have time to get upset. I just take it home with me after work and cry.”
The nurse says she understands how families feel: “Underfunding does shocking things to your compassion. It’s not that we don’t care, it’s that we don’t have time to care how we want.”
She is now thinking about leaving the hospital.