Nurses will not be sidelined


Irate NSWNA members are determined to fight the decision by the NSCCAHS to reduce the role of nurses in hospital management

Members in hospitals across the North Sydney Central Coast Area Health Service (NSCCAHS) are waging a determined campaign to force the AHS to revise its plan to eliminate nurses at the executive level in the structure.

Incensed members across the NSCCAHS are engaging in action to protest the deletion of divisional nurse managers in favour of generic managers who would have control over operational matters, including budgets, in public hospitals.

According to NSWNA General Secretary Brett Holmes, this is totally unacceptable to the NSWNA and members. ‘Nurses need to report to a senior nursing manager, which means they are dealing with a person who, as a nurse, has a better understanding of their issues and needs.’

Determined community campaign
Members at Manly, Wyong, Gosford, Ryde, Hornsby, Long Jetty and Mona Vale Hospitals and the Northern Sydney Home Nursing Service have overwhelming voted to endorse ongoing action to fight the decision to delete the senior nurse manager positions.

The action rolled out at Royal North Shore Hospital with a stop-work meeting and public rally on 23 May.

Despite the widespread community support and media coverage of the rally, the NSCCAH failed to respond to demands by the NSWNA and the RNSH branch for discussion about the position of senior nurses managers in the restructure plan.

To help NSCCAHS CEO, Dr Stephen Christley, understand the strength of feeling among nurses, members have bombarded the AHS office with a deluge of protest faxes demanding explanation about why operational control was to be removed from nurse managers and why the AHS continues to devalue the nursing profession.

First up, the AHS office was swamped in a mountain of faxes after two days of feverish activity by irate members of the RHSH branch.
This was followed by relentless bouts of faxing by members at Hornsby, Ryde, Manly, Long Jetty, Wyong and Mona Vale Hospitals, which saw the mountains of paper overflowing out to the edges of the AHS office for most of July.

We reject arrogant plan to sideline nurses
The offending NSCCAHS proposal would see the deletion of 10 senior nurse manager positions, with the remaining nurse managers graded at a lesser grade and burdened with multiple roles and responsibilities.

The proposal would reduce the role of nurse managers while generic managers and doctors would be given all the power to control operational matters, including budgets, in the operating theatres and wards. Nurse managers and nurse unit managers would report directly to the generic manager in each hospital division.

‘The nurses would still be responsible for patient flow and bed occupancy in the hospital. However, they would now only have an advisory role on the funding required to pay for the services and nurses required to safely staff those beds,’ said Brett.

‘This has huge implications for workload management and safe patient care across the AHS,’ he said.

We need nurses managing nurses
‘This is totally unacceptable to the NSWNA and members.

‘This has negative implications for nursing practice and the nursing career structure in the AHS. It will significantly undermine nursing as an attractive career option and, given that we are still suffering a serious nurse shortage in this State, that is the last thing we can afford to do,’ he said.

NSCCAHS rethink exposed as more blunder
On 20 July it looked like the NSCCAHS finally grasped the importance of reinstating the divisional nurse manager positions when the AHS office emailed the Association an updated list of positions and responsibilities in the structure plan, with reinstatement of the Divisional Nurse Manager positions with operational responsibility.

But relief was shortlived … by the next day the NSCCAHS was backtracking, admitting the revised list was ‘an error’. On 21 July, NSCCAHS HR Director Craig Landrigan wrote:

‘I can (sic) have looked at the conflict between the Operational Responsibilities … and can confirm my verbal advice that there is an error … Nurse Manager (sic) and NUMs should be listed under professional responsibilities not operational responsibilities.

Please accept my apologies for any inconvenience this transcription error this (sic) may have caused.’

The fight continues
At the time of printing, the NSCCAHS had failed to respond to the demands of the NSWNA and members for the reinstatement of the divisional nurse manager positions.

This is just the beginning, said Brett Holmes. ‘The Association and members will continue the fight to see nurses appropriately represented in the NSCCAHS structure.’