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Nurses blamed for hospice cutback

Stubborn nurses who refuse to follow orders are being blamed for the temporary closure of Hastings’ Cranford Hospice in-patient service.

A special audit shows there are not enough highly skilled staff, and nurses are driving doctors away. Patient safety would be at risk if a “culture of blame and mistrust” was not resolved.

Staff now face losing their jobs as the hospice is restructured.

A nurses’ union has branded the report “absolute rubbish” and said management was just trying to get rid of “old driftwood”.

The report by consultants was ordered by Hawke’s Bay District Health Board after a complaint by a staff member to the health and disability commissioner in January.

Hospice in-patients would be moved to Hawke’s Bay Hospital for six months while “radical action” was taken to repair the relationship between management and staff.

However, the report said staff could not work together and it was unlikely the differences could be resolved.

“Therefore [management] will have to make some difficult decisions about future staffing of Cranford Hospice at all levels.”

Health board chief executive Kevin Snee said the board would not instruct the hospice on how to change its culture, but “radical action” was needed.

“Highly resistant nurses … need to look at themselves and the organisation and see whether they want to be part of the future or the past.”

About 70 per cent of the hospice’s funding comes from the board.

The hospice’s management, Presbyterian Support East Coast, said some nursing staff had been at the hospice for 20 of its 25 years and were uncomfortable with modern drugging practices of terminally ill patients.

Chief executive officer Sean Robinson said some staff had refused to nurse patients as directed, driving away specialist doctors and nurses who found the battle to administer modern-day palliative care “too tiring”.

Nurses Organisation organiser Manny Downs said nurses were “shocked, angry and feeling shafted” after reading the report.

Accusations that they were unwilling to upgrade their skills were “absolute rubbish”. “A number of staff have asked if they can go on courses for just this type of thing and been turned down.”

Changes management had tried to implement since 2007 had been mishandled, Mr Downs said.

“They’ve been bullied, harassed – some say it’s a dictatorship.”

Former Cranford medical director Kerryn Lum said the report’s claims against the nurses were distressing.

“The public should be absolutely confident in these nurses, and back them. They’ve put their heart and soul into this community.”

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By Mark Anthony Sabandal

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