Nurses protest cutbacks
NORTH Coast Area Health Service chief executive Chris Crawford said yesterday that current health cutbacks would continue, but he would consider responding to nurses’ protests today if any ‘pressure points’ were identified.
Nurses are staging public rallies at midday today outside the Lismore Base, Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie and Tweed Heads hospitals to protest the cutbacks.
Mr Crawford, who was speaking at the launch of a new Aboriginal health initiative, said he would consider ‘fine-tuning’ the changes, but denied accusations the cutbacks were unsustainable.
He said the health service’s calculations were based on the reasonable workloads formula agreed to by NSW Health and the NSW Nurses’ Association, and approved in the Industrial Relations Commission.
“That is our properly calculated bedrock which takes into account the number of patients being looked after, the working hours required and the acuity (degree of illness) of those patients,” he said.
“That tells us how many nurses we need and we’re going to adhere to that.
“Some wards have been rostering above that so we’re bringing them back to the formula, which is the agreed amount we are funded on.”
Nurses’ Association assistant general secretary Judith Kiejda rejected that, saying the reasonable workloads formula was never perfect, but that nurses had made a commitment to the Government seven years ago to give it a go.
“It now only applies to 30 per cent of hospital wards across the State,” she said.
“Health service management have learned how to manipulate the reasonable workloads tool to suit their budgets, something the Industrial Relations Commission said was never to be a consideration.
“The North Coast also has an increasing population and an ageing population, creating needs above the NSW average which are not being met.
“This isn’t about workloads any more, this is about safe patient care. Nurses are telling us we’re in the danger zone so we’re asking the community to come on board.”
Mr Crawford yesterday launched a new program targeting smoking among pregnant Aboriginal woman on the North Coast.
He said that rates for Aboriginal smoking during pregnancy were too high and the program was designed to address that over time. Mr Crawford said the initiatives – Give smokes the flick, it really makes cents and Happy healthy mums and bubs – aimed to encourage mums-to-be to quit smoking in a ‘yarning’ style campaign accessible to Aboriginal woman.
“We want to reduce tobacco usage as best we can, but it can’t happen overnight,” he said.
“If it is successful it will be rolled out across the State.”