Before the Victorian nurses’ dispute was over, more than 110,000 people had signed a petition in support of their campaign.
Comments on the union’s Facebook site show that nurses collecting signatures were swamped with support.
One nurse reported: “Bentleigh door knock. Amazing response, people driving the streets to look for us to sign and people answering the door eagerly saying ‘I’ve been waiting for you to call!’ This retired police Inspector had been a recent recipient of the healthcare system and was very happy to support our cause!”
Another wrote: “My very first community petition event – on my own at Mulgrave Farmers’ Market, generating 350 signatures in about 4 hours! That was the start!”
Nurses also used the Facebook site to encourage other nurses to join the campaign, despite the government’s threats: “For those who haven’t signed the petition yet, the nurses’ EBA isn’t over yet. We still need to let the Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu know that we will NEVER give up our current nurse/patient ratios. EVERY nurse can sign this petition.Every signature sends an email to Mr Baillieu. Don’t be the nurse who sat back and did nothing in this EBA. You can’t have your pay docked or be fined for signing a petition.”
The Newspoll, published in The Australian newspaper on March 13, before the end of the dispute, showed an 11-point drop in Premier Ted Baillieu’s leadership satisfaction rating since October.
Support for the nurses came from surprising quarters. Alan Armsden, managing editor of Melbourne daily newspaper the Herald Sun – owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Limited – called on the government to “do a deal” with the ANF.
Armsden wrote: “Premier Baillieu and Health Minister David Davis know that public opinion and sympathy will always swing against the nurses when there is a perceived threat to patient care.
“Yes, patients do suffer a level of inconvenience when there are stoppages but no one’s life is ever placed in danger.
“The Government is playing a cool hand on this issue, spinning the message in a polished, cynical way.” Declaring his marriage to a lifelong nurse, Armsden told readers nurses were simply aiming to protect their long fought-for patient/nurse ratios and get a modest pay rise in line with inflation.
“I can tell you it is not about money when it comes to this profession. It is a calling and it has been answered by thousands of caring Victorians over the years.
“Nurses’ engagement with their profession is not a nine-to-five proposition. It is a commitment to patient care at the highest level.
“It is swotting at weekends to improve credentials; it is reading professional journals in their own time to keep up with developments; it is mentoring junior nurses to ensure they acquire the necessary skills.
“It is about dragging yourself to work when you’re crook to make sure you don’t let your colleagues down; about answering a sleep-shattering call because the hospital needs you in an emergency.
“It is about working until you are just about asleep on your feet in times of disasters; about drifting off to sleep on the sofa when you get home exhausted and your husband is trying to massage the pain out of those aching feet.”
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