13 Jul 2018

Nurses return to work as national strike ends

9:45 am on 13 July 2018

Nurses returned to work this morning as a 24-hour strike over staffing shortages and pay ended.

Nurses strike and rally. march down Queen St and meet at Aotea Square

Nurses rally on Queen St, Auckland, during the 24-hour strike. Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

Up to 30,000 nurses walked of the job yesterday in what was the first national nurses' strike in three decades.

This morning, staff were heading into hospitals for the 7am handover.

Yesterday, crowds of nurses hit the streets to protest the district health boards' latest pay offer while more than 5000 nurses remained on duty for patient safety.

Auckland nurse Maria Armstrong was among a sea of purple-coloured protesters outside Auckland City Hospital yesterday afternoon.

She was one of the 5000 staff on life-preserving duty during the strike, and said patients were safe and those working were in high spirits.

"We were fine, normal and happy to be at work but happy to be supporting our colleagues by being able to fulfil the LPS roster. Also a little bit of 'what are we missing out on?'

"But another busy day so you don't have time to think too much about what's going on outside of the ward."

'Normally it's buzzing'

Auckland woman Nikki Mandow, whose husband was in hospital, said the normally-bustling corridors sat empty yesterday.

"Downstairs is really quiet. Normally it's buzzing with the shops and the pharmacy and there's a Subway down there and today there's hardly anybody down there.

"There's normally a lot of people milling around, there's a big screen there, they're watching the TV and it's just really really empty down there compared to what it normally is."

She said the night before the strike, hospital staff moved beds from other wards that were closed so acute patients could receive care in staffed areas.

Joe How was sitting at the hospital entrance rolling a cigarette as he watched the protesters yesterday afternoon.

He said he had been in the hospital for nearly eight months and the strike had not affected his day.

"It's pretty much the same as when they [the nurses] are in. But I support them because you see the shit they have to put up with. There's a lot of abuse of people in there."

Hospital staffed as it 'should be'

Auckland nurse Holly Wilson joined the protesters after a shift at Starship and said the hospital had more nursing staff than usual.

She said the hospital was staffed to a model of care they needed on a daily basis, but did not have.

"For the legal requirements of life preserving services they staffed us as we should be, but unfortunately on a day to day basis that kind of staffing doesn't happen.

"So we were actually quite quiet today and quite overstaffed compared to a normal, really busy day."

Another nurse, who wished to remain anonymous, said the number of life preserving staff legally required for the strike was a joke.

"We do often, like very regularly, work beneath that number and there's no consequences. There's no legal requirement any other day of the year but today if we hadn't met that number the strike would be called off because it's unsafe for patients."

Ms Wilson said her nursing colleagues were determined to see their demands met, even if it meant more strikes.

"With the initial strike getting cancelled we were expecting a really good offer that would follow and it didn't come. The strike had already been cancelled so it made a lot of people quite angry. The general vibe from my colleagues and the staff is that we're going to be pushing for it."

Nurses Organisation spokesperson Cee Payne said the union would prepare early next week to resume bargaining with district health boards.

"We haven't talked about what the shape of that will be yet ... we'll be meeting and talking with the negotiation team Monday, Tuesday next week and looking at what their response is and what we need to do next."

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