Coonamble fights merger

Protest forces GWAHS backdown on merging manager positions.

NSWNA members at Coonamble are celebrating a significant win following the Greater Western Area Health Service’s (GWAHS) back down over plans to merge three health service manager positions in western NSW.

Last month, nurses led more than 500 members of the local community onto the main street to protest the move that would have seen Coonamble, Gilandra and Gulargambone health services left with only one manager between them.

Because the health service manager doubles as the senior clinician, members were deeply concerned that Coonamble’s ED, which handles more than 4500 emergency presentations a year, could not cope as it is already operating on skeleton staffing.

‘It would’ve been bedlam,’ said Coonamble Branch President Wendy Copelin, EEN.

‘Without our on-site manager and senior clinician, we would have been left without any back up for emergencies. Due to the skeleton staffing, the NUMs already spend much of their time on the wards covering the shortfalls. The merger would’ve left us struggling to cope.

‘The fact that over 500 members of our community turned out for the protest with only two days’ notice demonstrates how seriously the community takes this issue.

‘We are so proud of our community and ecstatic with the win. Coonamble has never seen anything like this before. The main street was closed and businesses shut for the rally.

‘We were simply not prepared to sit back. We made it clear to the GWAHS that we would march on Parliament if necessary.’

In what appears to be becoming standard practice for the GWAHS when contemplating restructures, nurses and community members had little or no consultation prior to the announcement. In fact, the Mayor of Coonamble told ABC News that he and the Council’s General Manager were led to believe by senior executives of the GWAHS that the NSWNA actually supported the plan.

NSWNA Assistant Secretary Judith Kiejda said Coonamble needs on-site management at all times due to its isolation.

‘Being two hours from Dubbo and over an hour from Walgett, Coonamble can’t afford to have its manager stationed at Gilandra almost 100 kilometres away,’ she said.

‘The Coonamble Health Service Manager is the facility’s expert clinician who assists whenever there are emergencies, retrievals, maternity deliveries and services needed for the indigenous community.

‘Given that planning for the Coonamble Multi-Purpose Service is well underway, the nurses are also concerned that a Health Service Manager spread over three towns would struggle to properly oversee the planning and development of this project. To date, the Coonamble HSM has had a pivotal role in this project.

‘When you add it all up it is clear Coonamble had a solid case for its own Health Service Manager,’ Judith said.