Determination To Close Beds Pays Off

Jack Schwartz and Sue Kendall discuss the bed closure campaign.
Jack Schwartz and Sue Kendall discuss the bed closure campaign.

Coffs Harbour mental health branch Vice President Jack Schwartz, said members got a result because of the decision to close beds in the interests of patient safety.Jack said management was using agency and casual nurses to fill the new agreed rosters while it recruited for permanent positions.

‘The NUM 3 is trying very hard to fill 8:8:4 but recruitment is very slow,’ he said. ‘We have agency nurses but we are still doing lots of overtime – it is not unusual for four nurses to be doing overtime on one day.

‘Nevertheless 8:8:4 is a huge breakthrough no matter how they roster it and the members are ecstatic,’ he said. ‘However the fight is not over yet.

‘This is not about more money for nurses; it is about safety of patients and staff and preventing staff burnout.

‘Leading up to the dispute we had four or five nurses go off work with fairly serious injuries and at least one required surgery. Their positions were not filled and this put huge pressure on the remaining staff.

‘I was taking over from people who had done a double shift the day before and a double shift the day before that. They might be working from 7.30am to 10pm with someone else working from 1.30pm to 7.30am.’

Jack said nurses who left the unit were not replaced. Staff knew of nurses who applied to work in the unit but their applications were not acted on, for unknown reasons.

He said the union campaign received a major boost when the hospital’s clinic nurse unit managers – NUM 1 positions – produced a letter supporting the stand taken by the NSWNA branch.

‘That was the turning point – management were no longer able to divide and conquer,’ he said.

Mental health branch officials praised former branch president Scott Hanson, now on light duties in another part of the hospital, for his assistance to the campaign. They said invaluable contributions going back to 2009 had also been made by workload committee members, Kath Hooper, Jann Capstick and Helen Blunt.