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Kerre Woodham: Te Whatu Ora management needs to step up

Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Mon, 20 Nov 2023, 2:09pm
 Photo / Getty Images
Photo / Getty Images

Kerre Woodham: Te Whatu Ora management needs to step up

Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Mon, 20 Nov 2023, 2:09pm

Now, a little bit of background. I'm no manager. I have only ever managed a couple of restaurants briefly and I wasn't a terribly good manager.

I ended up about 3 months into my managerial position being sued for constructive dismissal after trying to say somebody was a bit rubbish at training the other waitresses, but he was still very good at what he did and he could stay on the same money. Apparently that's constructive dismissal.

There we go. Expensive learning curve for the restaurant and for me - I'm a rubbish manager, far better employee.

But reading this letter that was sent from senior emergency department doctors at North Shore and Waitakere Hospitals pleading for dedicated security guards to be allocated to their wards, is an absolute no brainer management decision, even from a numpty like me.

These senior doctors wrote to Te Whatu Ora, and not for the first time, and said- please, more security is needed to keep us and to keep the patients safe.

So as a management decision, surely, and please put me right, but surely this is not as complicated as juggling stuff rosters, trying to get staff out of nowhere.

You haven't got enough staff already and then they've been slammed by nasty flus and Covid and just life, that would be complicated. I would find that a difficult thing to do trying to find enough people with the different skills required to keep the hospital running.

It would also be difficult trying to keep up the merry-go-round of hospital beds required. We have too many people clogging up the exit pipe because there isn't the at home care to allow them to recover safely at home, so they stay in wards in beds that are needed.

That would be complicated. That would take time. That stuff would be tricky. But when my senior doctors tell me that they, or one of their colleagues, or one of the patients in their care could be killed or seriously injured if security is not improved, when I know for a fact that they're not making this up, they're not over exaggerating, they're not over dramatizing, there have been incidents where doctors have been assaulted, where patients have been assaulted, where the panic button has been hit 1000 times in a matter of months.

They're not being silly. They’re not being hysterical. They're responding to a real threat to their well-being and safety.

So when they tell me that - and I know this because the reports have to come across my desk- as a manager, I would suspect that there's been under reporting of all the incidents, only the most serious come across my desk.

So this comes across my desk. They say somebody is going to die unless you listen to us. Surely, as the manager I think, hmm, well, I've left it a year. No, they're pretty serious. And I have seen a lot of incidents come across my desk. 

What do you do as a manager? I would jump onto the computer, Google security companies, check that they're with the Security Guards Association, check their reviews, and phone their referees. Even with those checks and balances in place, I should have extra security that very night, being trained up to ensure the safety of my staff and my patients.

Even going back to the security guard whom you use right now. Have you got enough guards to add to the roster? If you don't, can you recommend another security company with the same kind of dedication to service that you've shown us? It wouldn't be that hard, would it?

Surely that is a very easy one to fix in the middle of a highly dysfunctional public health system.

At the moment, though, the hospitals are covered by a team of up to five guards. The doctors say they value them highly. However, there's simply not enough of them. And of course, they're not often able to immediately respond to incidents of violence and aggression in the EDs.

I've seen the security guards at work in the ED at North Shore Hospital. He was really good, as were the medical staff and the police officers involved. They were kind, they were respectful, they were firm, they were brilliant examples of being human.

But if, as the doctors say, there are only 5 guards, have you seen the size of those hospitals? They'd have to cover all the wards a and when required, all the access points into the hospital, as well as areas outside. That's a pretty tough ask for five security guards.

As I say, this request has not come out of the blue, doctors and nurses have been asking for full-time security at the hospitals since last year, after a growing number of assaults and aggression directed at staff and patients. This is simply unacceptable behaviour on behalf of the aggressors.

Who the hell do you think you are, coming to a place where you are only going to get the utmost respect and kindness and care and turning on the very people who are helping you? Appalling behaviour.

But it's also unacceptable behaviour for management. A year on and nothing's happened. A year on, and if the worst happens, as the doctors predict, then the blood of any staff or patients will be on the hands of Te Whatu Ora management.


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