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Nurses and midwives confront systemic staffing issues

Fed up nurses and midwives will take action to address systemic staffing issues at both BlacktownHospital and Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.

The failed attempt to address staffing shortages, unfilled vacancies and skills mix issues has prompted the NSWNMA Blacktown Hospital branch to strike from 1pm to 3pm on Wednesdayand inform the Western Sydney community of the current crisis.

The NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) uncovered 3,178 hours of missed nursing care at Blacktown Hospital from January to October this year.

Similar issues at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital (RPAH) will be discussed at a branch meeting today, where members will vote on what action to take to maintain safe patient care.

Data showed RPAH has been 4,636 hours under the nursing hours per patient day between May 2017 and July 2018 and breached minimum staffing arrangements for 139 weeks during thatperiod. There are currently 257 vacant positions yet to be filled.

NSWNMA General Secretary, Brett Holmes, said the evidence of nursing hours being withheld from local patients was a clear breach of minimum staffing requirements under the Public Health System Nurses and Midwives (state) Award.

“It’s unacceptable for this to occur. Our members at both hospitals have significant concerns for patient safety and despite ongoing negotiations, have failed to come to an agreement with management,” said Mr Holmes.

“For months, branch members have highlighted significant problems of understaffing, theexcessive use of underqualified staff which has diluted the nursing and midwifery skill mix, regular overtime and constant delays in backfilling vacant positions.

“Despite repeated requests, executive management at both Blacktown Hospital and Royal Prince Alfred Hospital have failed to address these issues, prompting us to exercise our industrial rights and obtain data to fully assess the scope of the staffing problems.

Mr Holmes stressed the need for a more reliable shift-by-shift ratios system to provide a clear understanding of how many patients nurses have to care for.

“These circumstances demonstrate that the current system is not working. We need a more transparent and reliable ratios system that will guarantee nurse to patient ratios in every ward, on every shift across all major and district NSW hospitals.”

An extraordinary branch meeting will be held at RPAH today at 3pm to discuss a course of action.

Branch members at Blacktown Hospital will hold a twohour stop work meeting this Wednesday(21 November) from 1pm to 3pm. The branch will also call on the NSW Government to urgentlyintervene.

The NSWNMA Blacktown Hospital branch will insist life-preserving services are maintained as per normal practice to ensure patients’ safety for the duration of the stop work meeting.

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Nurses and midwives confront systemic staffing issues