Nurses threats met with action by health district
UPDATE 4pm: HEALTH authorities have moved to ensure all beds would remain open at Lismore Base Hospital's mental health unit next week after nurses threatened the extreme action over staffing cuts.
The NSW Nurses and Midwives Association voted at its Wednesday meeting it would close beds from next Monday in response to changes to staffing and nurses hours.
Northern NSW Local Health district chief executive, Wayne Jones denied cuts would be made and that nursing positions were rising in mental health facilities across the district.
An upgrade of the mental health facility would divide the 40-bed adult acute unit into two facilities - a 24-bed adult unit and a 16-bed older persons unit in conjunction with an additional 20 beds at the Byron Central Hospital.
While the association said its concerns had fallen on deaf ears by the LHD, Mr Jones said it had worked closely with the association about the renovations to its mental health facilities across the district.
He said the proposed new roster would provide appropriate staff-to-patient levels in each part of the units with increases in staffing when required.
FRIDAY 10.30am: STAFFING cuts to Lismore Base Hospital's mental heath facility has lead to retaliation by its nurses to enforce bed closures from next week, the NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association has said.
The association said the closures were the culmination of growing concerns over patient and staff safety with plans afoot to cut clinical nursing staff levels.
During a mid-week meeting, Lismore's branch members unanimously voted to begin close beds from Monday morning - unless the Northern NSW Local Health District agrees to maintain current staffing levels.
Under the restructure, the NSWNMA said the NNSWLHD will divide the current 40-bed unit into a 16-bed older person mental health unit and a 24-bed Adult acute mental health unit, which will include an 8-bed Close Observation Unit.
The association also said the Nursing Unit Manager position would be abolished and further a reduction of nurse staffing hours will commence mid next month.
Assistant general secretary of the NSWNMA Judith Kiejda, said nursing staff across the mental health unit fear safe patient care would be compromised if hospital management proceeds with its decision to cut jobs and nursing hours.
"The Branch is calling on management to immediately reverse their restructure decisions and consult further with the association," Ms Kiejda.
"It is incomprehensible that management would shuffle bed numbers like a deck of cards across three new units within Lismore Mental Health facility, cut a senior nursing position, reduce clinical nursing staff hours and expect the remaining staff to be able to provide the appropriate level of care required."
Ms Kiejda said to date management had not confirmed how the restructure and changed systems of work would impact on response policies.
"In the interests of safety for the patients and staff, Branch members have confirmed they will close two beds within the Close Observation Unit and four beds within the Adult Acute Mental Health Unit from 7am on Monday, to reflect reasonable workloads expected of nursing staff," Ms Kiejda said.
The Northern NSW Local Health District have been contacted for comment.