Friday 23rd May 2008
The Garling Inquiry is systematically making its way around the state taking the pulse of the NSW public health system. Predictably, the prognosis is alarming.
The Garling Inquiry into the NSW acute care system is well into its journey around the Area Health Services, taking evidence from different stakeholders about the shortfalls in the system.
The Inquiry takes place in public hearings at hospitals and other facilities in order for Commissioner Garling to have a first hand look at hospital conditions as well as to take evidence.
The NSWNA’s solicitor Bob Whyburn has been present at all the hearings to provide support for any members who wish to give evidence to the Inquiry. He said many people see this as our last hope to save the system.
‘A lot of people feel relieved, they want to have their say and they want something done. If not, it is the end of the system. They are hopeful something will come of it.’
Bob said, what is clear from observing the proceedings, is that the issues the NSWNA has put on the table for the government’s consideration for years, are the ones surfacing at the Inquiry from a cross section of witnesses.
‘There is an obvious convergence between the issues that need to be resolved and what nurses are looking for in their new pay and conditions negotiations.
‘A wide range of witnesses including many doctors and community members have stressed that the system is held together by nurses and if they leave, the system will collapse,’ said Bob.
‘At hearing after hearing, the evidence is overwhelming that nurses’ workloads are extreme. Senior nurses have described how their staff are constantly increasing their productivity with more patients, higher acuity and less hours to devote to caring.
‘The burden on nurses on night shift is particularly grim, with insufficient medical staff and almost no allied health staff. It all falls to the nurses to keep the show going,’ he said.
Bob Whyburn said Commissioner Garling has taken a lot of interest in how so much of nurses’ time, particularly the NUMs, is taken up with paperwork and non-clinical roles. He has taken note of the inordinate amount of time it takes to fill vacancies.
‘There are lots of stories being told to Commissioner Garling of the serious dearth of experienced nurses in the system, resulting in less support for young nurses and back up for doctors,’ he said.
NSWNA General Secretary Brett Holmes isn’t surprised by the nature of the stories being given to the Commission.
‘It is totally consistent with what our members have been telling us for years and what our research has been saying,’ he said.
‘The Iemma Government needs to look at our public hospital pay and conditions claim in this light. The most serious weaknesses in the system are the chronic shortage of experienced nurses and the difficulty in getting people to work at nights. Making the nursing profession more attractive, especially to overcome these issues, is the key to solving the ongoing crises.
‘The NSWNA will provide support to any member who wishes to appear before the Commissioner. Giving evidence is not a breach of the code of conduct. If a nurse wishes to give evidence in private that can be arranged.’
Commissioner Garling is expected to deliver his report by the end of July.