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More nurses sought for Shore

Flagstaff Team

On the wards… Ashleigh Bennett is a new nurse at North Shore Hospital

Waitemata District Health Board aims to employ 100 new registered nurses by the end of June, around two-thirds of them to be assigned to the North Shore.

They will be shared between North Shore Hospital and the Wilson Home.

Waitemata is the country’s largest DHB, and currently has 2281 nurses working across its territory of north and west Auckland.

The roles being recruited range from graduates to nurse specialists, spread across departments as diverse as cardiology and theatre. Chief executive Dr Dale Bramley says the extra positions will result in more nurses at patients’ bedsides, aligning with a board promise of “best care for everyone”. The board serves a population of almost 650,000, which is expected to grow to 800,000 by 2037.

The news comes in the same month as the “turning of the sod” to lay fundations for the building of a big new block at the hospital. The previously announced four-storey building, to be known as Totara Haumara, will provide four new operating theatres, new endoscopy suites to reduce waiting times for colonoscopy and gastroscopy procedures and will link to the main hospital by air bridge. Patient- and whanau-friendly design is promised.

One of the new nurses on the medical wards at North Shore Hospital is Ashleigh Bennett, who is of Ngāti Ranginui and Ngāi Te Rangi decent. She started in February and says she was attracted to the hospital by the support available there, including through He Kamaka Waiora (Māori health-services) in providing healthcare to serve cultural needs.

Recruiting Maori nurses is a priority to serve a DHB population that is 10 per cent Maori, says Dr Bramley, who is himself of Ngapuhi descent. However, nurses of all backgrounds are being sought to reflect the diverse communities they serve. The DHB last year employed a full-time Maori workforce recruitment consultant, believed to be a first role of its type in the country.

Asked if its nursing numbers prior to the recruitment drive were fully subscribed, the DHB replied that they had been adequate.

North Shore MP Simon Watts, a former deputy financial office at Waitemata, told the Observer that North Shore had not been immune to the staff shortages that he had highlighted at a Health select committee last month. Counties-Manukau DHB admitted to the committee that it was 150 nurses short. Watts warned that shortages could jeopardise the speed of the Covid-19 vaccination programme.

He wants a clear government plan to close the health workforce gap that has been compounded by border restrictions on overseas workers. “The government needs to vaccinate an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 people on the Shore for Covid-19 by Christmas. This is a massive undertaking.”

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