Nurses oppose MOH decision to continue with 12-hour shifts

Nurses oppose MOH decision to continue with 12-hour shifts

By Vijay Narayan
Tuesday 14/05/2024

The Ministry of Health says they anticipate to continue the 12-hour shifts for nurses in facilities like CWM Hospital until their nurse numbers improve although the Fiji Nursing Association is calling on the government to end the prolonged shifts as it is seriously affecting the nurses.

Following serious concerns raised by Fiji Nursing Association President Doctor Adi Alisi Vudiniabola on fijivillage Straight Talk With Vijay Narayan, the Ministry says a number of health facilities particularly in the Central Division continue to employ the 12-hour roster due to the reduced number of registered staff at these facilities.

The Ministry says CWM Hospital had trialed some months ago to move back to the 8-hour shift roster, but found that the coverage of duties was challenging for nurses.

The Ministry is anticipating recruiting more than 200 registered nurses in mid-June to provide additional nursing numbers for the health facilities.

It says rostering is an important tool for managing coverage of duties with appropriate human resource allocation and skill mix.

The Ministry says the health facilities use the 12-hours rostering to address acute shortage of healthcare workers, particularly during disaster response and during acute absence of the workers.

While responding to the Ministry’s stand to continue with the 12-hour shift roster for nurses, Doctor Vudiniabola says the Fiji Nursing Association will continue to demand that the shift is stopped as its creating a lot of illnesses and fatigue and burnout amongst the nurses; which then compromises the safety and the quality of care that they provide for their patients.

She says during the COVID-19 outbreak, there was a need for the 12-hour shifts as there were obvious restrictions in movements etc.

The FNA President says there was also an unnatural extreme demand for nurses outside and inside the hospitals for lengthy periods of time but this government has not declared an emergency nor a crisis whereby it could justify the ongoing 12-hour shifts for nurses.

She asks what is the crisis as some smaller hospitals have now worked together to create their 8 hour shift rosters to address the ongoing burnout and illnesses/sick leave of nurses in their hospitals.

She says today FNA knows CWM and Lomaloma hospitals are the two that are adamant on continuing with their 12-hour shifts.

Adi Vudiniabola says this is criminal and it is breaking labour laws because it is not meeting the requirements for 12-hour shifts.

She adds that the government has not provided rest rooms, they have not provided hot meals and refreshments, nurses are not regularly taking their days off but continuing to do overtime because they have to work on their days off.

She says they cannot take their time in lieu and they are not allowed to get sick.

Adi Vudiniabola says it is criminal to behave as if its business as usual when you don’t have enough nurses in a hospital.

She says if CWM Hospital does not want to change things then they should roster their Directors of Nursing to do 12-hour shifts as well to relieve their nurses on the floor and give them some quality time to rest and recover.

She also raised the issue of a senior nurse from CWM operating theatre dying at the Intensive Care Unit last year was highlighted due to pulling shifts and lack of nurses and little rest.

While responding to the FNA President’s concerns, the Health Ministry says it acknowledge the demise of the senior nurse from CWM Hospital as well as other Ministry staff who passed away in the last three years.

They also acknowledge that workload and stress at work are important considerations in a workplace, however it is difficult to relate all deaths at the workplace to workload and lack of rest, while there is also evidence of the presence of underlying sicknesses.

The Health Ministry says the Ministry of Employment has processes in place for assessing and compensating work related sicknesses, disabilities, and deaths.

Adi Vudiniabola maintains that the 12-hour shift is not safe for the nurses and patients, and it is unhealthy for them and their families and that is why the nurses continue to leave.

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