Barraba battles to keep designated on-call nurse

Hunter New England Area Health Service wants to scrap the designated on-call nurse at Barraba District Hospital – despite a contrary recommendation from management’s own investigation.

The AHS commissioned a report from a senior nurse educator who recommended the designated on-call system stay.

However top management ignored this and announced it would be abolished from 14 May.

Management claims the decision is not about cutting costs, but bringing Barraba into line with other similar-size hospitals which have given up the designated on-call nurse.

The NSW Nurses’ Association has asked the Industrial Relations Commission to order that the designated on-call be maintained while a joint union-management working party examines the issue.

The  NSWNA and management were meeting with a Commissioner as this edition of The Lamp went to press.

Nurses at the 22-bed Barraba Hospital, north of Tamworth, say the current system has proved its worth and should be kept NSWNA delegate at the hospital, ElsieMay Henson, said the union has had several meetings with Area management to try to convince them of the value of the designated on-call.

‘We are a small but busy hospital with 16 aged care beds, six acute beds and a very active ED. There is one RN and one EN on night shift and an extra EN on afternoon shift,’ ElsieMay said.

‘If we need another pair of hands on afternoon, night or weekends we can call on a designated RN. It is one phone call to get her and she arrives very quickly.

‘With no designated on-call nurse, we have to take a nurse off the floor to make a series of phone calls to try to locate someone who is able to come in.

‘Most of the girls who live in town are not going to be hanging around Barraba on the off-chance they might be called in.  Those nurses who live out of town on properties could be more than 50km away.

‘We can’t wait that long if we need someone for a cardiac case, a midwifery patient or mental health case.

‘If we can’t quickly get backup it’s going to cause problems, and it’s likely to be the RN on duty who will cop the blame.’

ElsieMay said the designated on-call system had operated since before she started at the hospital nine years ago.

She said the Barraba community should be represented on any working party investigation.