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Nurses furious about DHB Wairoa decision

Nurses have lambasted the impending closure of Hawke’s Bay District Health’s general practice in Wairoa and fear there will be job losses.

The DHB’s Wairoa Health Care Centre will close on December 1.

About 300 patients will be transferred to the private Queen St Practice, which will move to the former healthcare centre site at Wairoa Hospital.

A Hawke’s Bay District Health spokesman said staff would have the opportunity to be deployed into other health board positions.

New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) organiser Stephanie Thomas said five nurses would need to find work at Hastings Hospital 130 kilometres away or lose their jobs in an area already with high unemployment.

Chris Ash, the health board’s senior representative on the Wairoa Community Partnership group, said the board had taken on the role of general practice provider during a time of uncertainty around primary care in Wairoa.

“It was intended to be an interim measure to ensure Wairoa had sufficient access to general practice.

“The situation has materially changed and we are confident that there is now a consistent, reliable primary care workforce external to the health board.’’

Ms Thomas said the health board had failed to meet the terms of the NZNO-DHB multi-employer collective agreement because it announced the decision without any consultation.

“Hawke’s Bay District Health says this is a ‘business decision’ so it didn’t need to consult.

“Our question is how can decisions like that be made — decisions that will have tragic outcomes for hard-working nursing staff — without seeking input from those affected so all options could be explored?

“These are people who have made their lives in Wairoa.

“They are sometimes the sole breadwinners, they have purchased houses, their kids attend schools and they are part of their local community.”

There are no nursing vacancies at Wairoa and the health board has said it will work with staff to find reasonable redeployment options, “but none of the options are reasonable”, said Ms Thomas.

“Basically our nurses are left with very few options.

“If they don’t want to lose their jobs they will need to either commute four hours a day or uproot their families and move to Hastings — if there are jobs available there, and that’s not guaranteed.”

Ms Thomas said the health board needed to take its social responsibilities more seriously.

“We know funds are tight for health boards around the country but once again it is nursing staff who bear the brunt, and whose lives will be seriously affected by money-saving decisions.”

Ms Thomas said despite the uncertainty the affected nurses were continuing to work with patients to ensure their transfer to the new provider went smoothly and with a minimum of stress.

“Nurses shouldn’t have to work sacrificially but often do because they are caring professionals, but the sacrifice being asked of them here is unfair and unnecessary.

“Hawke’s Bay District Health management needs to have a serious rethink about their obligations to the nursing staff who have worked with and for them in good faith to help meet the health needs of the people of Wairoa.”