All eyes on decision-makers

The politicians and bureaucrats who will decide the fate of Bathurst Base Hospital are under unprecedented scrutiny following a strike by nurses.

A strike by nurses and midwives at Bathurst Hospital has prompted Bathurst Regional Council to form a health watch committee while community leaders have established a health forum to bring together hospital stakeholders including the local branch of the NSWNMA.

“The strike has benefited us in so many ways,” NSWNMA branch secretary Cathy O’Neil said. “Management will now be held accountable to the people of Bathurst and surrounding area for the quality of the health service they are providing.”

She said the branch also expected to be represented on the health watch committee, which was formed by a unanimous vote of Bathurst Council.

Deputy mayor Ian North, who has taken up the nurses’ cause, joined with Bathurst MP Paul Toole to set up a health services forum with representatives from LHD management, health unions including the NSWNMA, pensioners and the local business lobby.

The forum will reconvene to look at the recommendations of the LHD- commissioned review of health services.

The nurses’ action also forced LHD management to front a public meeting of hundreds of Bathurst residents in the lead-up to the strike.

Cathy O’Neil said many residents had no idea of problems arising from staff shortages at the hospital until they heard from nurses at the public meeting.

NSWNMA general secretary Brett Holmes told the meeting that nurses and midwives felt they had no choice but to go on strike, after management dismissed their concerns.

Brett said the Health Minister, Jillian Skinner, also failed to respond to a plea by nurses to adequately fund the hospital to avoid service cuts.

“We are concerned that other vital hospital and health services will be cut in the Bathurst region in the months ahead,” he warned.

Brett said he would write to Premier Barry O’Farrell to ask him to intervene and ensure sufficient funding for the hospital.