UPDATE: Shadow minister slams Casino's lone nurse policy
Update: Tuesday 3.20pm
State Labor today threw its support behind a NSW Nurses and Midwives Association's (NSWNMA) plea for more nurses at Casino and District Memorial Hospital.
This was after it was revealed that a single nurse is working in Casino hospital's emergency department.
Shadow Health Minister Walt Secord said there should be at least two nurses in Casino's emergency department at all times.
"Make no mistake, it is dangerous and irresponsible to have a single nurse working alone in an emergency department - particularly at night."
"This flies directly in the face of basic work, health and safety principles."
"Nurse safety has been thrust to the forefront due to the scourge of ice gripping rural and regional areas, particularly, the North Coast."
"Nurses put patients first and it is very disappointing that the State Government is ignoring their safety," he said.
State Labor called on the North Coast Nationals to intervene and increase nurse numbers in Casino hospital's emergency department.
Mr Secord called on Nationals MP for Clarence, Chris Gulpatis and Nationals MP for Lismore Thomas George to stand up for nurses and patients - saying the Nationals were missing in action on health and hospitals on the North Coast.
On February 2, the Casino branch of the NSWNMA passed a unanimous resolution demanding NSW government have a minimum of two nurses in the emergency department.
More than 14,500 people use this emergency department each year.
State Labor said this was the human cost of the massive cuts by the State and Federal Liberal-National governments.
Under NSW Premier Mike Baird and the Nationals, more than $3 billion has been slashed from NSW health and hospitals.
At the Federal level, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the Nationals have added to the cuts by the previous Abbott Government, bringing the total cuts to more than $17.1 billion.
THESE are the frontline nurses who work in isolation in the emergency department at Casino and District Memorial Hospital during the night.
With at least 80m of corridor between them and the rest of the hospital, one nurses union spokesperson raised concerns that should a violent incident escalate, "no-one could hear them scream".
With violent incidents increasing on the Northern Rivers, they have had enough.
At a meeting on February 2, the Casino branch of the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association (NSWNMA) unanimously passed a resolution asking NSW District Health to have a minimum of two emergency nurses rostered on.
The motion states: "The Casino hospital branch of the NSWNMA expresses their concerns over the continued breaching of NSW Health Policy protecting people and property through the continued practice of rostering a nurse in isolation in the high risk area of the emergency department on every night shift.
"This continued breaching of NSW Health Policy puts nurses, patients and visitors in the Emergency Department at serious risk of harm."
The union branch members are asking Casino hospital administration and Northern NSW Local Health District to undertake a risk assessment in regard to staffing as well as ensure a two-staff minimum at the emergency department.
"The branch's big concern is that nurses are working in isolation in the emergency department, which is actually a high-risk area for violence," said Thomas Hoffman, the NSWNMA branch organiser.
With Casino described as the "ice capital of the Northern Rivers", Mr Hoffman said the union didn't want "another nurse injured or even killed".
He said union members feared a repeat of what happened in 1994 to 21-year-old nurse Sandra Hoare, who was abducted from the isolated Walgett Hospital by two men, raped and then murdered.
Mr Hoffman said although Casino had a 24-hour police presence, the outsourced security company did not have a permanent presence, checking in just twice per night.
Yesterday the Minister for Health, Jillian Skinner, met with union officials to address hospital staff safety after escalating violence from patients.
The Opposition has criticised a decision not to invite police.
The meeting follows a recent surge of attacks, including the double shooting of a security guard and a police officer outside Nepean Hospital in Sydney's west last month.