Patient says nurses argued while she bled

5:22 pm on 6 June 2018

By Mava Enoka of The Wireless

A patient at Tauranga Hospital says she could hear nurses arguing and swearing while she lay bleeding in a bed.

She has spoken out following an RNZ investigation, which detailed allegations of wide-spread bullying amongst staff at the hospital, run by the Bay of Plenty DHB.

Read the full investigation here: The suicides, sackings and stressed staff of Tauranga Hospital

Deahn Mark says nurses argued as she lay bleeding in bed at Tauranga Hospital

Deahn Mark says nurses argued as she lay bleeding in bed at Tauranga Hospital Photo: The Wireless / Luke McPake / Supplied

Deahn Mark was 38 weeks pregnant when she was rushed to Tauranga Hospital in May 2017, bleeding heavily and terrified for her baby's life.

She says the care she received at the hospital wasn't good enough and nurses who should have been looking after her were arguing among themselves.

She and her husband were appalled at what the nurses were saying in front of them.

"While they were trying to figure out what was going on, my baby's heart was dropping, mine was rising and the nurses were bickering.

"[They were saying] 'That's not my job. I'm doing that'. Then I heard someone say, 'For f***s sake, I'll do it,' which isn't ideal as I'm lying there bleeding out."

Ms Mark said the poor care continued after her cesarean section when nurses weren't around to give her medication, and told her off when she went looking for a wheelchair. She said the nurses seemed stressed, overworked and unsupportive of one another.

The experience made her wary of ever going back.

"I could see the nurses bullying each other. I've seen some of the doctors, the way they talk to the nurses in other times I've been to the hospital. My sister is actually studying to be a nurse and I don't want her to go to that hospital if that's what's going on."

Bay of Plenty DHB chief executive Helen Mason said she was sorry to hear the patient felt her care was inadequate and patients should contact the hospital directly if they had concerns.

But it was not just patients who were worried about the alleged culture at Tauranga Hospital.

A nurse, who asked not to be named, said she was horrified at the recent bullying allegations.

She started work for the Bay of Plenty DHB in 2003 and said she felt bullied back then.

Last week's allegations led her to believe the culture she says she experienced more than a decade ago had been allowed to continue.

"I think there was a culture there already when I started and this is why I think that it's been allowed to thrive. I don't personally believe it's anything new."

The nurse said shortly after she started work at Tauranga Hospital, she noticed a group of nurses belittling and undermining a colleague over a period of time and she stood up for him.

Speaking out made her a target, she said.

At one stage, the same group of nurses discovered a personal issue of hers and starting discussing it at work, she said.

"Without a doubt it was the most traumatic experience I've ever been through. I've been qualified as a mental health nurse and a general nurse for 23 years and thank God I've never encountered anything like that since."

During a period of sick leave, she said a rumour was spread that she had terminal cancer. Once back at work, the nurses continued to target her.

"This involved things like people turning the desks in a shared office. Three of the five turned their desk against the wall because they didn't want to look at me. They cut my image off photographs and pinned them on the door, they stopped talking when I walked into a room, they wouldn't go out on clinical visits with me."

Her mental and physical health were affected, she said.

"I lost 30 kilograms in weight probably over a 12 month period. I couldn't sleep. I had to go [keep going] back because I had two young daughters at the time."

She put her concerns to HR, which carried out an investigation into her allegations, she said. But, she said, she was told her claims could neither be proven nor disproven.

This was the last straw. She moved to the South Island in 2006 and took up another nursing job.

Last week's allegations brought back her experience.

"People aren't commenting about it because they're afraid of the repercussions. If we do nothing about it, it continues."

It's taken years, but she said she could finally talk about her experience without crying.

She wants urgent action taken on workplace bullying, which happens around the country, she said.

"The answer is actually, let's look at what's happening. There's plenty of guidance on how to address bullying in workplaces."

She now works as a nursing lecturer and, despite her experience, still believes nursing is a great career. Her message to her students is to seek help if they were feeling bullied.

"If you are encountering this, tell somebody. Don't let it get to the point where you want to end your life because you don't have to end your life."

The Bay of Plenty DHB declined to comment on the nurse's experiences, saying continuing media coverage of the alleged bullying at Tauranga Hospital had caused distress for the families, friends and former colleagues of those concerned.

Last week the DHB said it was firmly committed to an anti-bullying culture.

Health Minister David Clark declined to be interviewed.

Minister for Workplace Relations Iain Lees-Galloway told RNZ he had asked WorkSafe, which regulates workplace health and safety, to have a greater focus on mental health issues and on workplace bullying.

The regulator had received about 100 complaints about workplace bullying over the past four years, but only investigated nine and none resulted in an employer being prosecuted.

The minister said he was satisfied WorkSafe had the resources it needed to improve its services without requiring extra money.