ANOTHER CALLOUT: More than 1.2 million people attended hospital Emergency Departments (EDs) in the year to June 2021. This was a 22.6% more than in 2011 and well above the rate of population growth On top of increasing numbers, the severity of cases has also risen. The proportion of immediately or potentially life-threatening events (triage levels 1-3) grew from 50% 2011 to 62% 2021. More emergencies and, especially, more life-threatening ones is not a sign of a health system moving in the right direction. How #willwegetbetter?SOURCE: National Minimum Data Set 2021
The Association of Salaried Medical Specialists Toi Mata Hauora says DHBs are taking a lazy approach to staff wellbeing by making token payments and providing cheap snacks.
Wellington’s Capital and Coast DHB has put $10 into staff accounts as a wellbeing payment.
ASMS Executive Director Sarah Dalton says unfortunately the payment was taxable and had the unintended consequence of creating payroll confusion and leaving some people slightly out of pocket in their overall pay.
Recently the Nelson Marlborough DHB acknowledged staff for their work during Covid with a $50 one-off payment, encouraging them to take a break and buy coffee. At other DHBs snack boxes, bottled water and fruit have been delivered.
“At Wairarapa DHB, staff were literally given peanuts – an irony not lost on them,” Sarah Dalton says.
She says while these initiatives may be well-intentioned, they are astoundingly tone deaf at a time when many hospital staff are fighting for fair pay and to settle their collective agreements.
“We also have health care staff who can’t take leave at the moment because there is no cover, or they can’t access basic entitlements like proper rest and meal breaks.”
“A bit of coffee money and snack boxes are no substitute for decent conditions and sufficient staffing,” she says.
More genuine and meaningful wellbeing initiatives might include a commitment to being a Living Wage employer, ensuring safe and sustainable working conditions, and providing fair pay.
“If health employers are serious about providing coffee breaks for staff, perhaps they should make sure that coffee, tea, and cold drinks are readily available to all staff, throughout our hospitals, at all times.”
“Flinging a few dollars into staff pay continues to push the burden of managing wellbeing onto individuals. If we want to see genuine and lasting positive change in our hospitals, employers need to shoulder the responsibility for providing safe and supportive workplaces,” says Sarah Dalton.