Nurses speak on workplace issues
NORTH Coast nurses took their workplace issues straight to the top this week at the NSW Nurses Association annual conference in Sydney.
While appearances by PrimeMinister Julia Gillard, Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon, and her NSW counterpart, Deputy Premier Carmel Tebbutt, demonstrated the powerful influence of the nurses’ union in an election year, local delegates remained underwhelmed by the pollie’s promises.
Lismore Base Hospital branch secretary Gil Wilson received a stirring reception when he put the issue of ‘part-time’ directors of nursing on the North Coast to Ms Tebbutt.
“She acknowledged the importance of the issue and said she was happy to discuss it further, but wouldn’t commit to a meeting,” he said.
The North Coast Area Health Service has merged the Lismore and Ballina hospitals’ director of nursing positions into one role, which nurses say is unworkable.
“I told the Deputy Premier it would be the same as her taking on the Tasmanian health department with her current job,” he said.
“They are trying to roll this out across the region, and Tweed and Murwillumbah hospitals are in the same boat.
“It might work for smaller hospitals like Coraki and Casino, but not Lismore which is the core of North Coast health.”
Ms Tebbutt acknowledged more needed to be done but fired off what could be considered the first shot in the impending pay negotiations.
“I ask you to consider these facts. Under the NSW Labor Government the number of nurses employed in the NSW health system has increased from 32,000 in 1996 to almost 40,000 this year,” she said.
“Since 1995 the average pay for nursing staff has almost doubled from $700 a week to almost $1400.”
General secretary Brett Holmes opened the conference with a broadside aimed at both sides of Parliament, putting the major parties on notice the union would be gunning for minimum nurse-to-patient ratios and appropriate skill mixes.
“The overwhelming feedback from nurses and midwives is these reforms are the way to get hospital management to fill vacancies and provide staffing levels required to provide quality, safe patient care and to protect the health and wellbeing of nurses,” he said.
“The extension of minimumratios into NSW is also a majorinitiative in terms of national health care reform.
“No real discussion about reform can occur without acknowledging the need to provide sufficient staff and funding for those required staffing levels.
“The issue goes to the heart of how any so-called national ‘efficient price’ for a hospital service or procedure is set.”