Work bans win extra night staff at Mudgee

Fed up nurses impose work bans, GWAHS finally delivers extra night duty staff.

It took the threat of work bans for the Greater Western Area Health Service (GWAHS) to respond to nurses’ repeated pleas for extra night duty staff at Mudgee Hospital.

Exasperated members voted to impose works bans last month after months of fruitless negotiations.

In an eleventh hour response, the GWAHS agreed to immediately provide extra clinical staff to address inadequate night shift staffing levels in the maternity and emergency departments.

The back down by GWAHS represents a big win for nurses who have been fighting for the extra staffing in the ED for years. With only one night duty nurse rostered on in the ED, and one midwife in the nearby maternity unit, nurses believed the hospital was grossly understaffed to handle night-time emergencies.

Mudgee Hospital ED and Maternity NUM Stuart Clifford said nurses were very happy with the result, as there had been ‘too much undue pressure on night duty staff for too long’.

‘Really, it should never have got this far. With 240 to 275 births per year, and over 10,000 annual outpatient presentations to emergency and maternity, one night duty nurse in each unit is just not enough. Since emergency and maternity were moved to the ground floor in 1998, there has never been enough funding to staff the ED 24 hours a day,’ said Stuart.

‘When we come on morning shift, night duty staff are often stressed. Nurses are regularly being called in for night duty emergencies.

‘GWAHS have supplied us with an initial two week roster with additional staff and are expected to implement a long-term solution after that.’

NSWNA Assistant Secretary Judith Kiejda said it was a great outcome for night duty nurses at Mudgee.

‘When a serious incident arises in the ED, the midwife has to leave the maternity unit to assist in the ED, leaving the maternity unit unattended, which is a totally unacceptable situation,’ she said.

‘It is also unacceptable, from a staff and patient safety perspective, to have only one nurse in the ED overnight.

‘Mudgee Hospital covers a big catchment area for births, so it must have midwives on every shift and a second nurse permanently rostered on the night shift in the ED,’ she said.