Alarm over patient safety crisis at Tamworth

Tamworth Hospital Branch of the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) will hold an extraordinary Branch meeting tomorrow, Thursday 27 August, over serious workload issues impacting the emergency department and maternity services at Tamworth Rural Referral Hospital.

Branch members will discuss Hunter New England Local Health District (HNE LHD) management’s refusal to implement a recommendation by the Industrial Relations Commission of NSW (IRC) to help alleviate patient safety concerns in the emergency department.

Last week, the IRC recommended an additional 10 nursing hours be provided on night shift in the emergency department for a two-month trial however, HNE LHD has since confirmed it “does not believe the additional 10 hour night shift will assist” and instead plans to maintain the status quo.

Assistant General Secretary of the NSWNMA, Judith Kiejda, said the decision was contradictory of the views expressed by the IRC and would result in ongoing pressure being placed on the already stretched emergency department staff.

“This is an unacceptable determination by HNE LHD – dedicated senior staff in the emergency department have been highlighting these workload and patient safety issues for months on end and management continues to claim there are no problems,” Ms Kiejda said.

“Since the new facility opened last month, management has completely abrogated its duty of care responsibilities to the people of Tamworth and the broader New England and North West regions.

“Our members are being pushed to breaking point and many senior nursing staff are seriously considering leaving a job they’ve been devoted to for years, as a result of management’s dogged decision not to address these issues.”
As a result of HNE LHD management’s refusal to address safe staffing and isolation issues within the hospital’s new maternity services, Branch members have this week resolved not to accept non-midwifery patients into the unit.

Ms Kiejda said that five unfunded maternity beds (beds which are not calculated in the midwifery staffing hours) would remain closed for any non-midwifery patients to ensure a safe environment for patients and staff.
“The midwives at Tamworth hospital are endeavouring to make sure that local mothers are getting the best possible maternity care – the same level of care that’s offered to mothers in metropolitan hospitals,” Ms Kiejda said.

“Data shows that HNE LHD is not providing the appropriate midwifery staffing mix as stipulated by the Birthrate Plus Protocols and the Public Health System Nurses and Midwives’ Award.

“Once again we’ve got highly skilled midwifery professionals being put under intense pressure whilst trying to perform their obligations to provide all mothers with safe patient care because HNE LHD management refuses to acknowledge its own staffing shortfalls. It’s outrageous and is of great concern to the local Tamworth community.”

Download this media release: Tamworth nurses and midwives alarmed over patient safety crisis

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