Little Lake Cargelligo outguns big bureaucracy

Country nurses show how common sense can prevail when NSWNA members and the community pull together.

When the Greater Western Area Health Service (GWAHS) set about amalgamating Lake Cargelligo Health Service’s manager with Condobolin’s, nearly 100 kilometres away, never did it expect such a big response from such a small community.

So when 19 NSWNA members rallied with more than 300 members of the local community in late February to protest the decision, the GWAHS had little choice but to listen.

Once the NSWNA demonstrated to the GWAHS the impracticalities and inefficiencies of such an amalgamation on an isolated community health service already at minimum staffing, the plans were dropped immediately.

Branch President Emily Armitage, EEN, couldn’t have been prouder of her colleagues and her community describing the GWAHS’s decision as a big relief.

‘I’ve been here for 15 years and have never seen such a positive action,’ she told The Lamp.

‘As I wrote in a letter to the paper yesterday, “never underestimate the big voice of a little community”.’

Lake Cargelligo Multi Purpose Health Service consists of a 22-bed hospital providing six acute beds and eight nursing-home-type beds and eight hostel units and a Community Health Centre.

It provides 24-hour emergency care, with on-call medical services. Griffith Base Hospital is the referral centre and is 75 minutes by road. Other major hospitals surrounding Lake Cargelligo include Wagga Wagga, Dubbo and Orange and all are considerable distances away.

According to Emily, the branch already had a strong membership, which has been crucial over the past 12 months.

‘But this has sparked more people’s interest. Now some have seen [the value of membership] first-hand, it has changed some opinions out there.

‘The amalgamation would have dramatically increased our nurse manager’s workload, when she is already struggling to fulfil her duties. She can’t even take her admin days, as she has to cover the wards.

‘The GWAHS has currently earmarked 11 FTE positions in our cluster so we will need to keep up the fight. We believe this move would’ve been the beginning of our service disappearing. If we don’t fight for what we’ve got, we’ll lose it.

‘Our community health district nurse is on long service leave and there is already talk of not replacing her.’

Emily said the branch was now focusing on maintaining services for the isolated community.

‘If any positions are threatened, we will start the fight again. Every shift the RN on duty enters data into our approved Workloads Tool on the computer.

‘I recommend to any branches in this situation to keep organised, stick together, don’t be afraid to speak up and don’t back down!’ said Emily.