‘Flexible working arrangements’ are a proclaimed benefit of working within the Hunter New England Area Health Service, according to its website.
That sounded like empty words to the more than 100 New England nurses who gathered at Wests Diggers Club in Tamworth on a Thursday night to voice their concerns over the Area’s pattern rostering plan.
Some nurses representing outlying health facilities travelled more than three hours to attend the meeting.
NSWNA branch secretary at Tamworth Base Hospital, Roz Norman, said members feel very strongly about losing the flexibility of the current roster system.
‘A lot of nurses have said outright, “If this comes in I can’t do it, I’ll have to leave and find something else”,’ Roz said.
‘We have nurses married to other shift workers – not necessarily within the hospital, they might be ambulance or fire brigade – and they organise their rosters with the managers so partners can work alternate shifts to accommodate child care. That’s just not going to be possible with a set roster.’
Roz said management appeared to be arguing that pattern rostering would be fairer because everyone would get the same number of morning, afternoon and night shifts.
‘But fairness doesn’t necessarily mean everyone doing exactly the same thing,’ Roz said.
‘Fairness means looking out for each person, making sure each person is satisfied with their roster and that one person’s shift pattern doesn’t adversely impact on other people.
‘The AHS claims the new system will be better for patients. In fact if the new system causes more nurses to leave it’s going to make for more unsafe practices at work and unhappy staff, meaning things will be more difficult for patients and staff.
‘The AHS claims many nurses are unhappy with the present roster system. I don’t know who these nurses are, because none of the nurses I’ve spoken to have ever been asked for their opinion by the health service.
‘Any rostering system will have problems, but the current system offers the best flexibility for keeping nurses in the workforce and attracting new nurses.’
Management oblivious to facts, says paper
The roster issue has attracted public attention, with Tamworth’s Northern Daily Leader weighing in on the side of nurses.
‘The people management gurus at Hunter New England Area Health Service appear to be blithely oblivious to a few simple facts most people in the market to attract and retain staff learnt decades ago,’ the Leader said.
’With unemployment at record lows and a skill shortage already biting regional Australia on the bottom, one would assume management professionals in organisations such as the Hunter New England Area Health Service would be going out of their way not to alienate core staff.’
The paper said it appeared the HNEAHS have put administrative convenience ahead of the substance of people’s lives.
‘Many Leader readers would be able to personally attest to the dedication and hard work of the nursing staff at our local hospital.
Anybody who has woken up confused and in pain in a hospital bed at 3am in the morning can’t help having a high regard for the nurse who is working the graveyard shift to ensure there is somebody there to help.
‘It seems to us it is only reasonable that people who are willing to provide compassionate care to patients experiencing the worst times of their life on an around-the-clock basis should have access to a work roster that takes their own needs into account,’ the Leader added.
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