NSW Health calls halt to redundancies

The Sydney West Area Health Service (SWAHS) has withdrawn offers of voluntary redundancy to frontline nurses following a directive from the Director-General of NSW Health.

More than 60 nurses had been offered and accepted the voluntary redundancies prior to the directive. With the withdrawal of the offer, these nurses are left in a legal limbo. The NSWNA is now looking at their legal avenues.

It is believed it will cost in the vicinity of $7 million to meet contractual obligations to these nurses and to backfill their positions.

One hundred and thirty-seven positions were initially tabled for redundancy. Thirty-six positions, mainly at Nepean Hospital, Auburn Hospital, Blue Mountains District Anzac Memorial Hospital and Westmead Hospital, were lost as the SWAHS had made offers of redundancy and accepted them prior to consultation with the NSWNA.

Following the directive that no frontline positions were to be made redundant, the SWAHS withdrew 62 frontline clinical positions from their list. The NSWNA accepted that another 20 positions were genuinely redundant in the nurse manager restructure.

NSWNA General Secretary Brett Holmes welcomed the withdrawal of the redundancies to nurses, but said lessons need to be absorbed.

‘We accept there are serious budgetary problems in several area health services, but any plan to solve these problems still has to be consistent with the clinical needs of the health system,’ he said. ‘The Garling Report and many subsequent Federal Government reports into health have provided a blueprint for the future. In all of these reports there is one constant theme: experienced nurses hold the public health system together; we are facing a demographic time bomb where many of these nurses are poised to retire and the retention of these experienced nurses is critical.

‘What on earth was the SWAHS thinking when it targeted these frontline positions, without consultation, for abolition?’ Brett said. ‘It is vital that lessons be learnt from this fiasco. This rash and poorly thought-through plan to save money has actually worsened the area’s budget. The already low morale of many nurses has taken another hammering.

‘Hopefully, all the state’s health administrators will learn a lesson from this. Losing our most experienced nurses is not an option when searching for solutions to budget shortfalls.’

Invaluable skills are lost  

Barbra Monley, a CNE at Blue Mountains District ANZAC Memorial Hospital, said she was shocked that experienced nurses were part of the voluntary redundancy plan.

‘I was hugely surprised, knowing that the State Government had said no frontline nurses would be lost. I assumed that any nurse applying for voluntary redundancy would be rejected. It was contradictory to everything the State Government had announced,’ she said.

‘The staff involved from my hospital had applied for redundancy, so they had reviewed their personal situations. I hold no blame towards the individual or local management, but when the Government is attempting to attract nurses back into nursing, while at the same time seeing senior nursing numbers being reduced in the wards, the whole system seems to be in a very confused state.

‘What will the outcome of these actions be in a few years? What position will nursing hold in the health system? These are the questions that need to be considered now to prevent chaos later.’