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Starship Hospital Doctor At Critical Levels And "Bed Crisis"

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Starship Hospital Doctor At Critical Levels And "Bed Crisis"

Starship Hospital doctor staffing levels are at a critical level with as few as three doctors attending to 60 children at any one time resulting in unsafe patient conditions and poor paediatric patient care.

Starship Hospital is meant to have two consultants, three registrars and three house officers attending to its paediatric patients. On Friday only one doctor of each discipline was attending to patients with one paediatric registrar assigned responsibility for all 60 patients, required to attend to acute admissions and to man the GP advice phone.

NZRDA Auckland President Dr Abbey Jebb says there are meant to be three registrars on the ward but only two full time general paediatric registrars are employed, with one of these positions "permanently vacant" due to the inability of DHBs to attract or retain resident doctors. Last week one of the registrars was sick and not replaced at work leaving just one registrar responsible for all 60 patients.

Starship is typically fully staffed with house officers, however one of these doctors was recently allocated to night shift and last week two were sick. "House officers are new to paediatrics and having one house officer manage the ward completely on their own without senior support is terribly unsafe for patients and places an extreme and inordinate amount of stress on the sole house officer."

Dr Jebb says District Health Boards have failed in their duty to provide appropriate care to their doctors and patients. They do not have adequate contingency plans in place to accommodate for doctors when they get sick. In addition, Starship is soon to have its roster changed from what it calls "increased" staffing levels in winter to a summer roster. This new roster will soon result in decreased staffing levels after hours.

"There has been no decrease in admissions and with patient numbers still at capacity this new roster should not be enacted," Dr Jebb says. "Doctors are continually in bed crisis mode and decreasing already poor staffing levels will be a major setback for patients and a big mistake for management."

Dr Jebb says senior medical officers (SMOs) have been extremely supportive, covering registrar clinics and helping to admit acute patients when possible, but this assistance isn't enough. "There are other shortages at Starship and senior medical officers cannot be in several places at one time."

"This is a risky and unmanageable strategy being undertaken by the DHB. Doctors are only attending to the most acute patients on the ward and being forced to ignore other issues that arise during admissions out of necessity due to prioritisation. Resident doctors have communicated to us that 'things are falling through the gaps' and that the staff shortages are being unheeded and ignored by management."

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