NSWNA Blocks Move To Cramped Premises

Action taken by the Association addresses OHS problems for community teams at Bulli Hospital.

In May last year the then Illawarra Area Health Service was pushing ahead with plans to move the Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT) and Transitional Rehabilitation Aged Care Service (TRAC) teams at Port Kembla Hospital to a new building at Bulli Hospital.

But the new premises were way too small – in fact, only big enough for one team.

After members raised the alarm, the NSWNA conducted an inspection and raised a number of OHS concerns with the AHS.

After months of negotiations, the AHS has rectified the OHS issues raised by the Association.

The NSWNA inspection identified several problems. The major issue was that the space was too small and OHS officers found that the AHS proposed to move far too many people into it.

‘The entire area was too small, including individual workstations,’ said NSWNA Assistant General Secretary Judith Kiejda. ‘Management kept saying it was suitable and we insisted it was not. It would have meant that staff were practically on top of each other, and there was no room for storage.’

Security was another issue: there were no locks on the windows, no duress response and no alarms in the building.

The circulation of air throughout building was also problematic because there was insufficient air conditioning. ‘Concerns were also raised about where to put the photocopier and fax machine – both because of the lack of space and because there was not proper ventilation in the room where they wanted to put the machines, so staff would have been exposed to heat and fumes,’ said Judith.

Even the perimeter of the building was unsafe, with uneven ground and a slip hazard at the front of the building.

During the eight months of negotiations, the NSWNA had to call a dispute to force management to address the issues.

Eventually the AHS rectified the problems and agreed to relocate only one team: ACAT. This meant that instead of almost 40 people being crammed into the space, only 23 moved.