ED win at Bathurst


More clerical support for Bathurst ED after determined campaign by NSWNA members.

Perseverance has won out in Bathurst ED, with determined members standing firm during an 18-month battle for additional clerical support in the hospital’s overloaded emergency department.

Fed up, after more than a year of negotiations, members of the NSWNA Bathurst branch, put their case for clerical support before the Industrial Relations Commission in November 2007.

Eventually, after a month-long trial of a bizarre NSW Greater Western Area Health Service proposal, the result was posted with IRC Commissioner Cambridge, who gave the AHS 72 hours to employ an additional worker.

NSWNA Assistant General Secretary, Judith Kiejda, congratulated Bathurst members on their victory and said their 18-month ordeal had taken ‘far too long’.

‘The Workloads tool, in the first instance, depends on cooperation at work-place level,’ she said. ‘When that cooperation is not apparent the NSWNA will support members who want to notify a dispute.’

Bathurst nurses invoked their Workloads’ rights after being left without clerical assistance on night shifts. The two rostered nurses were being taken away from sick patients to complete admissions and other clerical tasks.

The branch asked for either an extra clerical worker or an additional nurse but the issue languished for nearly 18 months.

Eventually, last May, nurses notified a dispute but in three meetings the best management could offer was to try and have patients or relatives complete admission forms and have them faxed to Orange for processing.

Commissioner Cambridge immediately told them to come up with a better proposal.

Then they suggested flicking clerical duties to the shift’s lone cleaner, who already doubled as wardsman, security guard and mortuary attendant. In the face of strong NSWNA opposition, Commissioner Cambridge ordered a month-long trial.

‘It was not acceptable and we knew that,’ said Branch Secretary Cheryl O’Brien. ‘The nurses needed proper clerical support to do their jobs.

‘Emergency department nurses had collected an enormous amount of information and proved their case.’

When the parties reported back, the AHS claimed the trial was working but nurses and cleaners disagreed.

Finally, on 26 November 2007, Commissioner Cambridge was confronted with letters from two of the ward’s three cleaners and testimony from NUM, Christene Druce, who came in during annual leave to support her staff.

One cleaner questioned how the multi-tasking was supposed to work when, as security guard, he was required to restrain violent patients, then, as clerical assistant, get them to cooperate in handing over personal details and documentation.

Cheryl, an RN in Bathurst’s Intensive Coronary Care Unit, said the result had been well received by ED staff. She urged other nurses to use the Workloads clause of the Award.

‘Collect the information and keep on going with it,’ Cheryl said. ‘If you can’t get a resolution, call your organiser and don’t be afraid to notify a dispute if you need to.

‘It’s important to monitor it and make sure it works,’ she said.