Sunday 30th May 2010
Public urged to support staff-to-patient ratios
Orange Base Hospital nurses want an immediate increase in staff numbers to cope with a mounting workload that often forces nurses to work double shifts then turn up for a third shift after just a few hours sleep.
The hospital’s NSWNA Branch organised a BBQ lunch outside the front gate to launch a petition calling on the NSW Government to make safe patient care the highest priority when determining hospital budgets.
The petition asks the Government to ensure adequate numbers of appropriately qualified nurses and midwives are employed and to make minimum nurse-to-patient ratios mandatory across the State.
NSWNA Branch President Luke Marks said Emergency Department nurses had been doing double shifts on afternoons and nights, going home to sleep then returning to the hospital for a 4pm shift.
‘That’s happened three or four times in the past week – it’s becoming a regular thing,’ said Luke, a Registered Nurse in the ED.
‘Nurses are fed up with excessive overtime and patients are fed up too. We have to deal with constant bed block and patients are walking out of the ED waiting room because they can’t be seen in time.
‘We have tried taking our requests for additional staff to the reasonable workloads committee but we don’t get anywhere.
‘The workloads committee is pretty much defunct – everyone is unhappy with it. We take a lot of time to collect data to be presented to the committee only for our recommendations to be ignored.’
Last year the ED handled more than 27,000 patients, including more than 1,300 high-acuity patients who needed to be seen immediately.
The ED has 15 general beds, two resuscitation beds, a Nurse Practitioner cubicle and six chairs for patients waiting for admission to a ward.
The Branch believes ED should have at least nine or 10 nurses on duty each shift rather than only five or six for most of the morning and afternoon shifts and three or four at night.
‘Management claims we are staffed according to budget but we are certainly not staffed according to presentations,’ Luke said.
‘We are supposedly now a level 5 hospital accepting patients out of area because there is no longer any orthopaedic coverage in Bathurst so all these cases come to Orange.
‘The trouble is we just don’t have the beds to cater for them.’
NSWNA members at Coffs Harbour and Orange Base hospitals have held the first in a series of ‘Nurse ED Days’ to highlight the desperate need for improved staffing in Emergency Departments and other sections of the State’s hospitals.
Coffs Harbour and Orange nurses had earlier voted to support the NSWNA’s 2010 wages and conditions claim, which includes mandated minimum nurse-to-patient ratios in each hospital and healthcare setting.
Nurses are taking part in similar Nurse ED Days at other NSW hospitals.
The campaign to achieve safe nurse-to-patient ratios includes a petition, calling on the NSW Government to make safe patient care the highest priority when determining hospital budgets.
The petition calls for mandatory minimum staffing levels. These have operated in Victoria for the past decade.