We reject plans to sideline nurses – August 2006

Nurses must be represented at the executive level in the health system.

The restructure of the Area Health Services has been drawn out and throughout we have had some success in preserving the interests of nurses. The restructure of the first, second and third tiers has been resolved. The new structures are now being put to the test to see if they work.

If the fourth and fifth tiers are the tests of the upper structures and the people in these positions are determining the structures underneath, I have some real concerns.

Our members have been patient, with the NSWNA systematically working its way through the issues with management.

At the fourth level we have hit difficulties in some Area Health Services.

There appears to be inconsistency across the Area Health Services that divide into two camps. With one group it has been possible to constructively work through the issues and maintain the integrity of nurses’ role in the managerial structure. However, the philosophy in the second camp is that nurses are insulated away in a silo, that situation has to be broken and the best way to do it is through the restructure. There is an implication that nurses are resting on their laurels and have moved into managerial positions without having to ‘compete’.

This position is not accepted by nurses in the North Sydney Central Coast Area Health Service (NSCCAHS). In fact, it has been overwhelmingly rejected and the red hot fax machines at the NSCCAHS main office bear testament to nurse anger.

Nurses don’t work in silos. On the contrary, they are used to working in teams and do so cooperatively every day. In fact, they recognise the high level of dependence of other team members.

But they do see the benefits of having a strong profession and are prepared to defend the career structure within it.

The position of the NSCCAHS lacks positive evidence-based practice and it is doomed to fail. If management took its blinkers off it will find abundant evidence that similar experiments in other countries have yielded poor results for staff and patients.

Sidelining Nurse Managers to professional advisory roles with no operational control of staffing and budgets will leave nurses responsible but powerless.

Our members in all the branches within the NSCCAHS have passed resolutions of no confidence in the area management, have conducted a vigorous fax campaign and have indicated they have plenty of motivation for further actions.

As The Lamp goes to print, we continue to advocate for common sense to prevail and for management to come forward with propositions that treat nurses with the respect they deserve.

Threats in OHS

Just when you thought the level of malevolence towards workers from the federal government and employers had reached maximum, along comes another area in which our rights are put under threat. This time it is in health and safety (see story p18).

Back in March, Nick Minchin, number three in the Coalition government, let it slip that even more radical industrial relations changes were likely to follow in the footsteps of WorkChoices if the Coalition won the next election.

We might not have to wait that long with OHS shaping up as a new IR front.

OHS experts tell us that the IR changes will lead to lower standards in health and safety. On top of this the federal government is applying pressure to the states to ‘harmonise’ their different OHS systems. On the available form, this is likely to mean a race to the bottom.

This is a serious threat for NSW workers who enjoy the strongest OHS system in the country.