Friday 16th June 2006
Anne Woodward, a nurse unit manager at the Kapooka Health Centre near Wagga Wagga, was sacked last month for voicing concerns about life-threatening delays.
The ink is barely dry on the federal government’s new IR laws and an ADF Health Services nurse feels the force of her employer’s new, unfettered power.
Anne Woodward, a nurse unit manager at the Kapooka Health Centre near Wagga Wagga, was sacked last month for voicing her concerns with her defence force supervisor about the delay of an ambulance called in to attend a suspected cardiac arrest.
The ambulance was delayed at the barrack gates and then escorted to the hospital at a slow speed.
Anne, alarmed at the risk this posed to the patient, asked her supervisor what could be done to avoid such an occurrence in the future.
‘I thought it was a reasonable thing for a nurse unit manager to ask. It wasn’t a personal thing, it was about procedure,’ she said.
This exchange led to the ADF Health Services removing her from the base. Anne, who is technically employed by a nursing agency, RED Alliance, was given an hour to clear out her desk.
Management even threatened to call military police to remove her. She had worked at Kapooka Health Centre for six years.
It is the fourth sacking at Kapooka Health Centre since the middle of last year.
ADF the real employer but the buck stops nowhere
The Australian Defence Force is washing its hands of responsibility for the dismissal, saying it is not the employer.
Nurses working at Kapooka Health Centre say the Senior Health Officer Lieutenant Colonel Langworthy told them the ADF Health Services could simply ask the agency to remove any nurse and replace them with another.
‘He told them they have no right to appeal and the traditional concepts of natural justice and procedural fairness do not apply because the ADF is technically not the employer,’ said Assistant General Secretary Judith Kiejda.
The NSWNA has filed an unfair dismissal case on Anne’s behalf with the Australian Industrial Relations Commission, but Judith Kiejda says it is still unclear what rights she has under the new federal industrial relations laws.
‘If the Commission finds RED Alliance is the employer, it will be exempt from an unfair dismissal claim as it employs less than 100 employees.’
No chance to defend herself
Not only has Anne been unfairly sacked from her job, she has had no opportunity to respond to the trumped up reasons put forward by the ADF. In fact it took 13 days before she was given written reasons for her removal.
Anne’s workmates are so outraged they have signed a statement condemning the ADF for its actions:
‘As staff members of Kapooka Health Centre we wish to state our angst and disillusion of the dismissal from our workplace of Anne Woodward.
We categorically state that Anne Woodward is the most proficient and respected leader that we have had the pleasure to work with,’ they wrote.
Over her six years at Kapooka, Anne had contact with a significant number of army personnel as all the new army recruits come through Kapooka for 42 days and advanced soldiers for 12 weeks.
‘I found it a very satisfying job,’ she said. ‘But now I feel shattered. Losing my job affects all aspects of my life – my career, my family, my finances.’
‘I’m worried about the job security of the staff that remain.’
Email ADF Health Services and tell them to give Anne Woodward her job back
You can add your voice to this campaign and make ADF Health Services take responsibility as Anne’s employer and give her back her job.
The NSWNA has set up a protest email on our website addressed to key ADF Health Services management. The email can also be sent to Anne’s local MP Kate Hull.
This is a quick and easy way for you to make a difference and to show your support for one of your colleagues.
Go to http://nswnurses.asn.au and click on the prominent button on the home page with Anne’s image and the link will take you through to the email form.
Let’s keep the pressure up on ADF Health Services and let them know that if you touch one nurse you touch them all.