Bathurst’s horror Easter

Vote for industrial action brings promise of more staff.

NSWNA members at Bathurst Base Hospital voted to take industrial action unless management acted to relieve the ‘horrendous and unacceptable’ workloads pressure on staff.

The decision foreshadowing industrial action led management to promise to recruit sufficient nurses to staff 15 surgical ward beds. The ward currently has 15 beds open but is only staffed for 12.

Nurses say the additional surgical ward staffing is ‘a big win’ but remain unhappy with understaffing in other areas, particularly the Emergency Department.

NSWNA Branch President Lyn Sloane said management decided to open extra beds over Easter without any planning as to how they would be staffed.

Lyn said the surgical ward was funded for 12 beds but fluctuated between 15 and 18 patients for most of the Easter weekend. The medical ward was funded for 20 beds but ranged between 24 and 25 for most of the weekend.

She said an urgent Branch meeting on 7 April resolved to take industrial action if surge beds in the surgical ward were opened again without adequate staffing.

The resolution called for the NUM to be provided with a staff roster for the surge beds and for the Nurse Educator position not to be reduced from full to part time.

Lyn said the hospital’s general manager later promised that three more beds would be opened in the surgical ward and outlined a plan to recruit and co-ordinate staffing for the beds.

‘It is a big win for the nurses who will have some of the pressure taken off and for the community because they are getting a better, safer service,’ she said.

‘There has been very strong community support for the stand taken by the Branch and we had two to three days of coverage on local TV and radio.

‘However, ED staff remain disappointed that no extra nurses will be employed there because we don’t think we have adequate safe staffing.

‘The ED is funded for eight beds, but it actually has 17 patient spaces. It has had an increase of 1,200 presentations over the past 12 months but no extra staffing. At night we have just one RN on the floor and a triage nurse.’

NSWNA General Secretary Brett Holmes said what happened at Bathurst Base Hospital over Easter proves mandated nurse-to-patient ratios are the only way to protect nurses and patients from unsafe staffing levels.

Brett said management resorted to ‘inadequate and reactive staffing cobbled together at the last minute’ to try to cope in the surgical and medical wards over Easter.

‘The pressure on the nurses was horrendous and unacceptable,’ he said.

‘Such pressure also increases the risk for patients, many of whom were very sick and unable to do very much for themselves.

‘In the surgical ward at the end of the week there were four post-operative joint replacement cases and a major bowel resection case. That is an example of how sick these patients are.

‘With Bathurst’s St Vincent’s Private Hospital set to close, the pressure on the Base will increase even further, so it is vital we fix this staffing and funding problem now.’