Delegates have their say

H

Stephanie Cummings

Stephanie Cummings

“People are just not aware what privatisation will mean, especially for the long-term chronically ill.”

“Privatisation is an issue very close to my heart because the state government will close Manly Hospital and relocate services to a new Northern Beaches Hospital, which will be built and operated by a private business.

Manly staff got a flyer saying we may retain our positions if similar positions can be found in the new hospital. If they do take us on we will keep our conditions for five years – but after that, who knows? I’m sure the private owner will want to streamline costs.

We already have the experience of the failed privatisation of Port Macquarie hospital. It turned into a big debacle. The government spent bucket loads of money to sort out the mess and buy the hospital back off the private owners.

I think people are just not aware what privatisation will mean, especially for long-term chronically ill people, because there is no money to be made out of them. The money is in quick turnovers for surgery. I work in aged care mental health and we take a lot of dementia clients who can stay for months waiting for guardianship and to find a place in a nursing home. Where’s the money in that?

Privatisation of health care is a major issue in America and it looks like Australia is heading the same way.”

Stephanie Cummings CNS Manly Hospital

Sylvia Moon

Sylvia Moon

“My whole career I’ve faced the issue of being in a country hospital that doesn’t get the same level of resources as a city hospital.”

“I’ve been at Wagga Base for almost 20 years and this is my first union conference. It’s been fabulous. My role here is to be a bit of a voice for Wagga nurses. Also, to learn what’s going on up here and take it back to the branch members so they know what’s happening and can tell the community what’s going on.

Sometimes members think the union isn’t doing anything when in fact they are trying to get better conditions, better safety and improved care for the patients.

My whole career I’ve faced the issue of being in a country hospital that doesn’t get the same level of resources as a city hospital might. Getting nurse-to-patient ratios is definitely our priority, especially for our high dependency and paediatric units.

Generally the Wagga Base nurses feel it’s good the union is going for the ratios. However some are reluctant to get involved in the campaign. They say: ‘That’s good if you get it but I just want to be left alone to do my job.’ We need more nurses to get involved.”

Sylvia Moon RN Wagga Wagga Base Hospital transport unit

Ian Press

Ian Press

“The federal election campaign is a good time for the union to raise the privatisation issue.”

“The danger of hospital privatisation has been raised at this conference and we have heard first hand about the American system. It’s ludicrous to think Americans can be paying $2000 per month insurance and still not be covered for all their hospital expenses and certain treatments.

The federal election campaign is a good time for the union to raise the privatisation issue in TV advertising because there is the possibility of a new government. The public needs to know where the parties stand on the issue and who will put people first and put patient safety first.

This is my first conference and it’s a great chance to advocate for St George Hospital, to hear new ideas, to show our support for each other and plan our future campaigns.

The evidence shows the ratios we won in 2010 are working so there is no reason not to expand them to other areas that still suffer from inadequate staff levels.

For example our ED is as bad as 1-to-5 on night shifts. How can you be expected to look after five patients while taking care of all the admission paperwork and starting to plan their care?”

Ian Press RN St George Hospital intensive care unit

Chris Hele

Chris Hele

“I don’t want to see privatisation degrade our health system.”

“The conference guest speaker from the USA, Donna Smith [See story page 30] was fabulous. We already knew that the American health system had a lot of flaws and wasn’t equitable, but Donna explained how, even with private health insurance, many people still go bankrupt because of the cost of health care. Her speech was a massive eye opener.

I don’t want to see privatisation degrade our health system. It would take us down the American path. That would be doing a huge disservice to everyone.

I believe we have a right as citizens in a democratic country to expect a level of excellence in our health care and we need to provide for our patients.

Privatisation would also take away some of our legitimacy within the system because it is doctor run, and nurses would have less say. The system would be controlled by accountants for the benefit of shareholders.

Chris Hele RN Maitland hospital medical assessment unit

Jessica Gray

Jessica Gray

“Penalty rates are a very important issue for me being a young person. If they didn’t have penalty rates any more I would just go back to university and find a new job.”

“Gosford is a large training hospital so we don’t have to fight for staff as much as some of the smaller rural hospitals, but I’m here at conference to fight for ratios that other hospitals don’t have.

I work in intensive care on a 1:1 ratio but it is not actually mandated in our award. If the government wanted to, they could take that ratio away. It is important that it gets put into our award and made solid so we can’t ever lose it.

I worry that a new federal government could attempt to remove penalty rates or at least decrease them as they tried to do with WorkChoices. It’s the single biggest issue for me in this federal election.

Penalty rates are a very important issue for me being a young person. Working on the weekends really wrecks your social life. If they didn’t have penalty rates any more I would just go back to university and find a new job. I think the system would lose a lot of young nurses.

Nursing is a tough and stressful job and the penalty rates make it a bit better to work on the weekends and after hours.”

Jessica Gray RN Gosford Hospital intensive care unit

Jill Telfer

Jill Telfer

“We need to see that we have shared issues … and support each other.”

“For me the most important thing at conference is to have the opportunity to consider where we are with our campaign and how we keep it going. Conference gives us the ability to network and find out where everybody is at – in Sydney, regional areas and further out in the country.

Conference shows us we all have a common cause and a common focus. We can share some of the strategies we have put in place to deal with things.

We don’t want to allow a culture to develop of city versus country or big hospital versus small hospital. We need to see that we have shared issues, understand what others are going through and support each other.

As an Association we also need to be encouraging members to speak up more. I feel that nurses who worry about their workload and patient safety are sometimes pressured into thinking that the problem lies with them as an individual, rather than the hospital accepting that the system is the issue.

The people who are brave enough to speak up should be getting a pat on the back because they are saying the situation is not safe for patients and it is not safe for staff.”

Jill Telfer CNS Tamworth Hospital renal unit