Health unions team up to take on Local Health District

IN what has been dubbed a fairly "unusual" move, both the NSW Health Services Union and the Nurses and Midwives Union have teamed up to take on the Northern NSW Local Health District over potential jobs when the new Byron Central Hospital opens next year.

Following joint meetings between the NSW HSU and the Byron and Mullumbimby branches of the Nurses and Midwives Union, a series of questions were put to the Health District in a joint statement.

Mullumbimby District Hospital NSW Nurses Association secretary-delegate Shauna Boyle said the meetings came about as a result of joint concerns over a lack of certainty surrounding staff jobs at the new hospital.

"It's fairly unusual that two unions would meet together," she said.

"And it's of course about the lack of a workforce plan being released for the new hospital at Byron Bay.

"We felt that perhaps the community isn't aware of the enormous stress that the staff were under relating to the new hospital."

The statement said staff were experiencing stress and anxiety over ongoing delays to the release of the new Byron Central Hospital workforce plan, which would give some insight into potential job losses.

Both the Mullumbimby and Byron hospitals, as well as other health service centres in the shire, will be close when the new hospital opens mid next year.

Ms Boyle said originally, health staff in the shire were told there jobs would simply be transferred to the new hospital, however management have since said they cannot guarantee anyone's job.

But Northern NSW Local Health District CEO Chris Crawford said every effort was being made to place all staff who work at the Mullumbimby and Byron hospitals and Community Health Services into positions at the new Byron Central Hospital.

"Staff who work at these hospitals are not under a contract, they are either permanent fulltime or part-time employees and none of these staff will be forced to take a redundancy," he said.

"Some staff will also have the option to work in neighbouring hospitals and community health services."

Northern NSW HSU organiser Jonathan Milman said the opening of the new Byron Central Hospital should be a positive event.

"It's a bigger hospital, it's a better hospital, it will have more services and yet here our members are, stressing about whether they'll even be a part of that hospital," he said.

"We're just so concerned that dollars come before care."

Byron District Hospital NSW Nurses Association secretary-delegate Elizabeth McCall said the lack of answers about jobs and the workforce plan was incredibly disrespectful to staff.

"There's not enough respect being paid to the anxieties of the staff, many of whom have been there a very long time," she said.

Both the Health Services Union and Nurses and Midwives Association have sought answers to the following questions:

  • How many beds will be opened initially in the Inpatient Unit?
  • When will the promised workforce plan be available for discussion and consultation with relevant staff?
  • Will service and staffing decisions be made according to the Clinical Service Plan 2012 that informed the design of the hospital?
  • When will a decision be made regarding the privatisation of some segments of the medical imaging department?
  • When will the sub acute Mental Health unit be opened.
  • Will the sub acute Mental Health Unit be managed separately to the hospital and community health services?
  • Will the new Mental Health Unit be able to provide support for local mental health non-government organisations (NGOs) and community groups such as the Byron Community Centre and Byron Bay St. Vincent de Paul centre, both of which provide ongoing material and psychological support in the community, in particular to homeless population, many of whom have mental health illness?
  • Will there be the same or an enhanced ability to provide free counselling services to the community?
  • Will social workers and other community staff still be able to provide support to the schools and NGOs in the community?


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