Bathurst nurses start work bans

The Western NSW Local Health District is continuing to ignore strong community opposition to service cuts at Bathurst Base Hospital and in response NSW Nurses & Midwives Association (NSWNMA) members at the hospital will start work bans on Monday 9 December to ensure safe patient care is maintained.

The implementation of strict staffing rules by Bathurst Base nurses and midwives follows months of campaigning, a 24-hour nurses and midwives’ strike at the hospital on Friday 29 November and a massive public meeting in Bathurst on Monday 2 December to discuss service cuts at the hospital.

NSWNMA general secretary, Brett Holmes, said the Western NSW LHD intends going ahead with the closure of five beds in the Bathurst Base medical ward on Monday.

“This is a disappointing outcome and indicates the LHD and State Government continue to ignore the voice of the people in Bathurst. It is just extraordinary that LHD leaders and state politicians are pressing ahead with these extra service cuts after 700 people came out last Monday night and called on them to at least wait until a review of the hospital’s operation was completed.

“In response, Bathurst Base nurses and midwives believe they have no option but to enforce strict, safer staffing rules to ensure management understands just how important this hospital is to this growing community,” Mr Holmes said.

From 7am on 9 December, Bathurst Base nurses and midwives will strictly enforce, in the medical and surgical wards, the nurse-to-patient ratios – or mandated minimum nursing hours per patient day (NHPPD) – contained in their award. Any beds not fully staffed according to those minimum award requirements will remain closed until the required nurses are provided.

As well, admitted patients in the Emergency department must also be transferred to the wards within one hour. Should there be, on any shift, more than two admitted patients or patients awaiting transfer to a ward in the ED, then the nurses will advise the ambulance service that Bathurst Base is on ambulance by-pass. If any patient in ED requires one-to-one nursing, then additional nursing resources must be deployed within half an hour.

The maternity unit will not accept any non-obstetric patients from anywhere in the hospital.

Surgery will not proceed unless there is a staffed post-operative bed available in the hospital.

There will be no pre-operative elective surgery admissions to the critical care unit.

When the children’s unit has more than seven patients, a third nurse must be provided within half an hour.

Mr Holmes said these arrangements better reflect how the hospital should run in terms of safe nurse and midwifery staffing.

“If the Western NSW LHD and State Government are prepared to snub their noses at the Bathurst community in this way, then they cannot expect to be cut any slack when it comes to how they should be running the hospital. People will often give a little extra, but not when their views and rights are being dismissed in this way.

“I will also be writing this week to the premier, Barry O’Farrell, asking him to intervene and ensure there is sufficient funding to maintain and enhance quality public hospital and community health services at Bathurst. I am advised the Bathurst Regional Council has also written to the premier expressing its concerns about the future of the hospital.

“The ball is well and truly in the State Government’s court now, because the LHD management is just ignoring the community,” Mr Holmes said.

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