Aucklanders expecting help with their drug and alcohol problems are receiving the bare minimum assistance because of overwork and understaffing.
According to Isaac Sayal, an alcohol and drug clinician and PSA delegate at Pitman House in Pt Chevalier, this is because health workers are having to focus more on the productivity targets demanded by their managers than the needs of their clients.
“It means my clients get the barest minimum. I would love to do more, but it simply isn’t possible with the number of staff we have.”
Normally, he says, clinicians would hope to be dealing with about 60 clients, but of late he has been treating more than 100.
Such demands often leave clinicians in a difficult position. Drugs and booze impact on entires families who then hope he can help with everything from GPs to the Ministry of Social Development. Saying no only raises tensions. But if he does try to do more he risks the ire of his manager.
“The people who do this work,” says Sayal, “you have to believe in it or you won’t last long. It isn’t a situation where you can work with someone until you reach the best outcome. In the end you do the best you can and move on.”
He is also worried about the impact the workload is having on his career as there is little time for taking leave let along undertaking extra training and professional development.
Sayal says everyone would love to able to do more, “but you can only work with what you’ve got and we are barely keeping our head above water.”
His experience bares out the findings of a study published last week in the New Zealand Medical Journal that found at least one in four adults is unable to get the primary health care they require. A further 9 per cent can’t get secondary health care – such as a referral to see a medical specialist – either.
A nationwide healthcare funding awareness campaign, Yes We Care, has received many stories that also support the NZMJ study. There are claims of district health boards constantly raising the bar for acceptance on waiting lists – in Hastings, residents have a saying “When in pain, catch a plane” – while others who are a waiting list for hip or knee surgery are being penalised because of the weight gain brought about the delay in getting treatment.
In an effort to force an independent survey of unmet health needs nationally, patients and people working in health can to share their stories on the organisations website at: www.yeswecare.nz/share-your-story