Lismore nurses parade fears
BUILDING workers cheered from the scaffolding as 150 angry nurses marched on the Lismore Base Hospital yesterday.
Drivers travelling up and down Uralba Street also honked their horns and yelled out support to nurses and members of the community who were protesting the ongoing health cuts by the North Coast Area Health Service (NCAHS).
Vocal nurses cheered the speakers on in heatwave conditions as workplace grievances were aired and questions were put to NCAHS chief executive Chris Crawford.
“This is round three of the cuts and they just keep cutting and cutting. When will they stop,” asked union branch secretary Gil Wilson.
He told the rally that nurses simply could not sustain their bulging workloads.
Mr Wilson outlined several recent cuts at the Lismore Base Hospital that had impacted on nurses, including the elimination of wards people, the X-ray transport person and the unit responsible for discharging patients.
Mr Wilson said that while nurses and other allied health staff were left to pick up the slack, the issue had moved beyond concerns about workloads and was now about patient safety.
The nurses association’s North Coast organiser, Jo-Anne McKeough, said the union was fed up and described the health service’s cutbacks as ‘death by a thousand cuts’.
“We’ve spoken to nurses who’ve cried, nurses who are too tired, nurses who say they are leaving, and nurses who’ve begged us to do something,” she said.
Marshall Fittler, chairperson of community lobby group Healthwatch, told the crowd that the loss of 400 jobs must impact on patient care.
“The community just can’t absorb that,” he said.
Mr Wilson also criticised the health service’s axing of the hospital chaplain’s position.
“They’re replaced him with a $100,000-a-year spin doctor, a PR person, and you know what PR means to nurses – well this is the same thing,” he said, momentarily turning the angry mood to laughter as he played on the nursing acronym per rectum.
About 600 people attended lunch-time rallies organised by the nurses’ union at four North Coast hospitals.