Monday 23rd February 2009
NSWNA intervention stops GWAHS’ plans to cut nursing jobs.
Despite widespread nurse shortages, overwhelming workloads and a promise by NSW Premier Nathan Rees that frontline jobs were to be protected from budget cuts, the Greater Western AHS (GWAHS) tried to chop almost 130 nursing jobs before being brought to its senses by NSWNA intervention.
In early January the GWAHS announced it would slash 129 nursing positions in order to save $60 million in budget savings. Twenty-seven positions were to go at Dubbo Base Hospital, 34 at Bathurst and 37 positions at Orange.
The Dubbo operating theatres were to lose more than seven registered nurse positions and the intensive care unit more than two. At Bathurst, the maternity unit was to lose four midwife positions, the emergency department three registered nurses and the medical wards nearly 10 positions.
Nurses say they were dumbfounded as all these hospitals have been at groaning point for months due to staff shortages.
‘I work in the maternity unit at Dubbo Base Hospital. We’ve been trying for the past few months to increase the staffing here. We have a lot of junior staff and we need more senior midwives,’ said Kylie Jefferies.
Therese Nelligan, EN, said it was the same at Bathurst Hospital.
‘We’ve always been short-staffed. I did over $20,000 in overtime last year – it was a necessity because they didn’t have the staff,’ she said.
Kylie said morale had been low and took a further battering when the cuts were announced.
‘The whole of staff at the hospital weren’t happy. They were quite devastated when they were told we were going to lose staff. The AHS was trying to save money by cutting at the coalface,’ she said.
Therese said, ‘morale is that low at Bathurst it’s not funny.’
‘When they announced the job cuts morale got even worse. No one knew who would go or what sort of jobs. It created a real sense of insecurity.’
After large NSWNA branch meetings at Dubbo, Bathurst and Orange, NSWNA Acting Assistant General Secretary Susan Pearce presented management with data that contradicted their rationale for the cuts and led to an immediate backdown by the AHS.
‘The Association brought out the truth. Management admitted for the first time the hospitals were understaffed. The union took the stats to management and they couldn’t deny it,’ said Therese Nelligan.
Susan Pearce said the meeting with management was perplexing.
‘One day they are telling their staff they are cutting 130 jobs. The next day they tell us not only they are not cutting nursing staff but more are needed.
‘We are happy they listened to what we had to say and they have moved away from the original proposal to cut jobs. But they still have a budget deficit that requires them to make savings so we remain cautious.
‘The bottom line is the State Government promised that frontline jobs would not be affected by budget cuts and we will be holding the Area Health Services to that commitment,’ said Susan.