St Vincent’s closes, new hospital opens

Members at St Vincents Hospital in Bathurst have won redundancies and new jobs at a day surgery that has opened on the site.

When Catholic Healthcare announced the closure of St Vincent’s private hospital in Bathurst in March this year, staff were devastated. The 62 nurses faced an uncertain future with the possibility of unemployment.

But thanks to a determined campaign by the NSWNA Branch, in conjunction with the local community, all nursing staff have received redundancy payouts and the option of new jobs at a day surgery that has opened on the site.

In August a company called Day Procedures Australia leased the premises from Catholic Healthcare to open the new Bathurst Private Hospital. At the time The Lamp went to press, staff were being interviewed and due to start work at the end of September.

NSWNA Assistant General Secretary Judith Kiejda hailed the successful outcome. ‘This is a big win in that staff have ongoing employment and all nurses have secured redundancies,’ she said.

Helen Price, an RN who has worked at St Vincent’s for 10 years, said members were happy with the positive outcome.

‘We are pleased Catholic Healthcare agreed to pay us redundancy packages. They gave us a 3.5% pay increase in July so they will pay the redundancies with the increase. This includes casuals who have been working for five years or more,’ Helen told The Lamp.

‘The redundancy pay-out has been calculated for permanent part-timers for an average of their hours up to the last pay packet in August. They are averaging the hours rather than going by contract hours because many of us do extra hours outside of our contract. That is fair and everyone is happy with this outcome.’

Some stability ensured

Although most of the staff have been offered fewer hours than they originally had at St Vincent’s, they nevertheless face a more stable future.

‘I have been offered permanent part-time hours. They are not the hours I want but the new owners can’t sign off on hours until they know how busy they are going to be,’ said Helen. ‘We’ll be offered fewer hours but with extra shifts. It’s a foot in the door and we’ll go from there. It’s a much better outcome than we originally anticipated a few months ago when the closure of St Vincent’s was announced.’

After Catholic Healthcare was forced to announce the hospital’s closure in March when the media got wind of the news, the Association organised a rally, which was attended by around 250 nurses as well as members of the local community.

The NSWNA called on the State Government to release new funding from the Treasury to open the 15 beds at Bathurst Base Hospital that were closed several years ago, which would allow the hospital to employ more staff, including those from St Vincent’s. Bathurst Base has since opened five beds with the aid of Federal funding (see story page 19).

Union Officials met with State MP Gerard Martin and were instrumental in setting up a working party comprising key stakeholders to consider options for the community and nurses.

‘The Association took part in a lot of negotiations to make sure we didn’t miss out on our redundancy packages, to make sure Catholic Healthcare were fair and to make sure long-term casuals didn’t miss out,’ said Helen Price. ‘The Union was very, very helpful. It’s been worth all the hard work to get a very good result. It goes to show that when things get tough, it’s worth sticking it out.’

The NSWNA has just begun negotiations with the owners of Bathurst Private Hospital about awards and a possible Enterprise Agreement.

It is understood Daycare Procedures Australia will continue to lease the current premises for the next 18 months while investing their capital expenditure into building a new facility.