Nelson Marlborough DHB has come under fire over workload pressures, bullying and mental distress. Photo: File - Nelson Hospital.

Health board investigated for workplace breaches


By Jonty Dine and Paula Hulbert

Senior health board management have come under fire over staff workload pressures, bullying and mental distress, a Nelson Weekly investigation has found.

Government body WorkSafe New Zealand is demanding improvements from the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board’s (NMDHB) alcohol and drug addiction services department, saying it has likely breached the law.

WorkSafe last week issued two ‘Improvement Notices’ to Jane Kinsey – the DHB’s general manager of mental health, addictions and disability support services.

The notices, which have gone on display for staff, say that the DHB have, or are likely to have, contravened the Health and Safety Act 2015.

The WorkSafe inspector who led the investigation says that mental health concerns are not being addressed properly.

“There are risks around workload fatigue and stress that are not being effectively controlled and there is no evidence of effective processes for case load management and balancing workloads,” the inspector wrote.

They say that staff need to develop appropriate training around bullying, harassment and discrimination.

Public Service Association organiser Mike Cunliffe says the situation in the department has been untenable for several years and the organisation has “significant and longstanding concerns for the health, safety and wellbeing of staff ”.

“As an organisation, we consider NMDHB senior management have not lived up to their responsibilities and duty of care.”

The notices come four months after a staff member died in a suspected suicide in what a former colleague alleges was partially the result of extreme job stress.

The colleague previously told the Nelson Weekly the job took place in a “powerless and humiliating” work environment.

When the DHB was asked to comment on the improvement notices it said it was “considering and discussing” them.

Then Jane Kinsey simply reissued the same statement she gave to the Weekly in October saying how the department has been faced with an increase in referrals to the service.

“On top of this, some of the addictions support team have faced significant and unexpected personal challenges and situations this year.

“We always look for opportunity to improve and continually monitor caseloads – for acuity, complexity as well as demand.”

The DHB has until 31 March to provide proof that WorkSafe’s recommendations have been acted on.

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