Tuesday 19th December 2006
Union tackles management over OH&S
A nursing home has been forced to backtrack on cuts to nurses’ hours after the NSWNA intervened on occupational health and safety grounds.
Mudgee Nursing Home removed the equivalent of a full-time nurse from both the morning and afternoon shifts and refused to replace nurses who were off work due to illness.
Management claimed the hours cuts were necessary because the home, then owned by the Moran group, was over budget.
The home is one of 26 Moran facilities in NSW, six in WA, five in Victoria and two in Queensland that have since been sold to Principal Aged Care.
NSWNA Assistant General Secretary Judith Kiejda said roster changes were announced with minimal consultation with staff, imposing a heavier workload on nurses and reducing the standard of care available to residents.
Residents’ families contacted the Mudgee Guardian, saying nurses were being run off of their feet and stretched to provide a proper level of care.
‘Families complained of residents being queued up to be helped to the toilets in the daytime, some being left wet for periods of time, problems with food and with cleaning maintenance,’ the newspaper reported.
Nurses contacted the union, which informed management that a risk assessment of the roster changes was necessary.
Nurses tried to discuss the changes at the home’s OH&S committee but the committee was not functioning well. They then decided to ask Workcover to visit.
A Workcover inspector attended a meeting of the OH&S committee, explained how the risk assessment procedure was supposed to work, and recommended that committee members receive training to help the committee function more effectively.
All committee members have since attended OH&S committee training.
The inspector also advised management to replace its complicated risk assessment form with a simpler document.
Risk assessment forms are filled out by nurses and discussed by the OH&S committee, which then makes recommendations to management.
Following the union’s intervention, management reinstated two four-hour positions on morning shift and agreed to replace sick nurses or modify duties if replacements were unavailable.