Workloads to ease at Coffs ED


More staff approved after union campaign

Coffs Harbour Base Hospital is getting a big staff increase after a long and persistent campaign by nurses.

North Coast Area management has approved four new permanent positions for the Emergency Department and one and a half full-time equivalent (FTE) positions in the operating theatre.

The campaign by the hospital’s NSWNA branch to reduce excessive workloads centered on the Emergency Department but received enthusiastic backing from nurses in all departments, said Sue White, NSWNA councillor and branch president.

‘We had really good support from branch members – each department was very supportive of the issues in the other departments,’ Sue said.

‘Members kept turning up to branch meetings which were well-attended. Even if their own department wasn’t under discussion on the day they would come along to make sure they were up-to-date with what was going on.’

Sue said the four new positions in the ED were costed at $314,000 per annum – an extra 24 hours per week for a clinical initiative nurse, a fourth registered nurse on night duty, an endorsed enrolled nurse on morning shift, and an extra 14 hours per week for a ward clerk.

The branch is also seeking a nurse unit manager for the ED. Area management has asked for more information to support the request.

The additional one and a half FTE positions in the operating theatre will be filled by an RN with in-charge duties.

‘Our members are thrilled to bits – it’s a huge win, which has relieved a lot of pressure on nurses especially in the ED,’ Sue said.

She said the ED had a 50% increase in presentations in July this year, compared to July last year, and saw 33,000 patients in the 12 months to June this year.

‘Coffs Harbour’s population is growing fast and workloads have got heavier especially in holiday periods because we are a holiday town.

‘Holiday times are very difficult because we have a lot of working mothers who can’t do extra shifts.’

Sue said Christmas 2006 was extremely busy and stressful, prompting the branch to pass a resolution to seek extra staff through the reasonable workloads committee (RWC).

After a long process of identifying areas of the greatest staff shortages, the branch went to the RWC with a list of 10 positions it wanted filled.

Sue said union and management representatives on the RWC used the list as a basis to decide priority claims to be sent to area management with supporting statistics.

‘We got good support from management reps on the RWC – we worked very well together as a team and each side was respectful of the other’s position,’ she said.

She welcomed the area’s agreement to give priority to direct patient care positions before any management positions.

‘It makes a big difference to nurses working really hard on the front line if they know they are being listened to and supported by local and area management,’ she said.