‘Untenable’ staffing at Shoalhaven

Members at Shoalhaven District Memorial Hospital are demanding action to address inadequate staffing in the operating theatres.

Nurses at Shoalhaven Hospital have struggled with inadequate staffing in the operating theatres since late 2009, and increased activity in the theatres has led to more pressure on nurses to provide safe patient care. The increased surgical activity in the theatres means the unit is not staffed to ACORN 2002 Standards.

NSWNA members sought to address staffing issues with management and after management failed to respond, the NSWNA and members called an urgent dispute meeting with hospital management to address serious staffing concerns in the operating theatres. At the meeting management and the Union agreed that a staffing review is to be undertaken by an independent reviewer, with input from the theatre nurses to the review.

NSWNA Assistant General Secretary Judith Kiejda said current staffing levels in the operating theatres only takes into account the intraoperative nursing roles without considering duties that are additional to direct patient care. ‘Management have failed to acknowledge or understand the scope of the perioperative nurse’s role. This has been exacerbated by increases in surgical activity without a commensurate increase in staffing.’

A review by nurses of the past several months’ rosters demonstrates that the FTE staffing provided has lagged further behind the ACORN Standard. Initial estimates of staffing shortfalls show that theatres are being staffed with at least 4 and at times as many as 7 FTE less than the ACORN Standard.

Nurses say management has been attempting to fill staffing gaps by increasing the number of rostered 10-hour shifts. The CNE and NUM have also been slotted in to fill vacancies on the daily work schedule to cover sick leave. The ACORN Standard makes an allowance for sick leave but by fully allocating the available part-time and casual staff there is no provision within the current staffing level to backfill sick leave shifts without using the CNE and NUM.

Nurses at Shoalhaven District Memorial Hospital are considering a community campaign to keep the pressure on management and inform the community, media and their local MP of the staffing problems at the hospital.