ER Head At Dunedin Resigns In Protest

low staffing levels can cause complications

The ODT is carrying a report about the resignation of the Clinical Leader of its emergency care facility. He’s resigning in protest at proposed staffing levels:

“Dr Tim Kerruish resigned as clinical leader yesterday morning  after about 15 months in the role, effective immediately, but will stay on as a specialist.

His position was “untenable” because of a disagreement with management over doctor numbers.  Senior medical staff had “serious doubts” about providing a safe level of cover, he said.

The $2.7 million, 10-bed ED observation unit opening in June  or July might not be able to open on weekends because of inadequate staffing, he said…” read more: ED boss resigns over staffing frustrations

The New Zealand health service has been struggling for years with a lack of resources, low moral and a high turnover of staff – many of them leaving to take up position in neighbouring Australia. It is to his credit that’s he’s staying on at the hospital for the near future.

Putting our patients first

In 2009 Dr Kerruish criticised Dunedin’s emergency department’s “Putting our patients first” project, saying although it had made some gains it may not get much further without a change of culture at the hospital.

“He said he had tried to find a philosophy statement on the board’s website and was not sure he ever did.

Dr Kerruish is one of the members of the team for the pilot project, which was designed to introduce the Toyota vehicle  manufacturer’s lean thinking methods to reduce waste,  increase efficiency and improve patient flow.

The pilot is part of a national programme called “Optimising  the Patient Journey” being tested in various hospital  departments in several locations…” read more: Specialist urges lift in hospital culture

Dr Kerruish, 45,  has only been the clinical leader of the emergency department since January 2011, taking over from his predecessor Dr John Chambers who’d been in the post for 17 years. In the months leading up to his appointment. Dr Kerruish and his colleagues had been “increasingly outspoken about the hospital’s poor performance nationally in ED length-of-stay statistics and the lack of progress in this area.”

Then in April of last year Dr Kerruish voiced his concern that both senior and junior staff were worried that staffing levels were unsafe. The ODT obtained a letter showing that staff had written to Chief operating officer, Vivian Blake, in December detailing their concerns about staffing levels:

“Only one registrar and one house surgeon were on duty between 1am and 7am during the week and midnight and 7am at weekends.

The doctors gave the example of a night in October, when the number of patients in the department at one time peaked at 35 and 41 patients were seen by the night shift doctor team during its shift…. read more ED staff express concerns for safety  

His departure as department head is likely to keenly felt by many colleagues who were very supportive of him. One may only hope that patient care isn’t compromised, either by his resignation, or the level of staffing cover he was protesting about.

Dr Kerruish, an old boy of the Castle Rushen High School in the Isle of Man, studied at the University of Liverpool and has lived in Dunedin for 11 years.

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For an overview of the NZ health service go to the Health Service section of this page.

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