Boss Coffs up … eventually

Emergency action delivers $600,000 Christmas present.

Coffs Harbour nurses have won an additional 6.6 full-time equivalent positions for the city’s understaffed emergency department.

Last December, frustrated nurses resorted to industrial action to get management to sign off on the last of 250 additional nursing hours a week.

The North Coast Area Health Service delivered 3.9 full-time equivalent jobs in July but had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into adding Nurse Unit Managers to morning, afternoon and weekend shifts, along with an additional Registered Nurse.

Those positions were signed off on 5 December.

NSWNA Branch President, Sue White, said the workloads process had repeatedly broken down with Area Management.
‘It was very frustrating,’ she told The Lamp.

‘ED nurses did a great job, collecting information and arguing their case. Four or five times, the Workloads Committee, which includes the director of nursing, recommended additional staff but it had to go to the AHS and they would just ask for more data.

‘We identified ED staffing as a problem two years ago. The nurses were happy to work hard but the situation was affecting their patients.

It had become a safety issue.’

Eventually nurses decided ‘enough is enough’. They imposed bans, held a public rally and gave notice of a two-hour stop-work meeting.

All-up, they won an additional $609,000 for emergency department staffing, including July’s $315,000 for extra nursing and administrative positions.

In the course of their submissions, they told management some shifts operated without a designated triage nurse, although the department dealt with cardiac arrests hospital-wide, presentations had increased, and they had had up to 19 patients backed up in consulting rooms.

The timing was important because Coffs Harbour is a major tourist centre that doubles in population over the Christmas holidays.

Team effort delivers

Coffs Harbour surgical RN, Mandy Short, had a busy day on 5 December last year.

She finished a double shift, 16 hours on her feet, grabbed a placard and spent the next 90 minutes at a rally supporting emergency department colleagues.

People like Mandy were the key to one of the Association’s biggest workloads victories, according to Coffs Harbour Branch President, Sue White.

‘It was a win for nurses right across the hospital,’ the Enrolled Nurse explained.

‘We were so proud of the way everyone got involved, at meetings, then on the day of the rally. Nurses from all departments supported the ED nurses with their case.’

She said Mandy’s actions, after completing back-to-back evening and night shifts, had been typical.

Sue also singled out ED RN, Dave McKiernan, and NUM 1, Sue Lavender, for their efforts.

‘Dave attended every meeting for over a year, on or off duty,’ she said. ‘He kept us on our toes.’

Meanwhile, Sue did the hard yards, collecting data and polishing the committee’s submissions.