The NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) has called for urgent intervention by Western Sydney Local Health District to address serious workload issues and nurse staffing shortages that have hampered Blacktown Hospital throughout winter.
Members of the NSWNMA’s Blacktown Hospital Branch are worried their ability to provide safe patient care has been severely compromised and fear their registration to practice is being put at risk as a result.
General Secretary of the NSWNMA, Brett Holmes, said working conditions across a number of wards and units at Blacktown Hospital had reached critical levels and morale amongst the nursing staff had plummeted.
“This has to be the worst we’ve seen at Blacktown for some time and it is imperative senior management at Western Sydney Local Health District acts promptly to alleviate the current unsafe conditions,” Mr Holmes said.
“We are aware additional, unfunded beds have opened on several wards and units to cope with the increase in demand linked to the winter flu season, yet this has not been reflected in adequate changes to the number of nursing staff rostered or their skill mix.
“The hospital is short-changing patient care by providing less nurses per day than required under the state’s nursing Award.
“Our members also consider the current nursing skill mix to be extremely poor, due to less qualified nurses routinely being rostered to replace nurses who are more experienced.
“Many of the nurses are exhausted and demoralised from inadequate support staff being rostered, they are routinely missing out on their full meal breaks and many are working unpaid overtime just to ensure the duties of their shift are completed safely.
“Members have reported routinely being left short-staffed when nurses escort patients off a ward or unit because no replacement nurses are allocated in their absence.”
Mr Holmes said the Branch was seeking a number of improvements, including the ‘like for like’ replacement of experienced nursing staff; appropriate levels of support staff rostered to minimise nurses performing non-nursing duties; adequate nurse staffing levels and skill mix rostered prior to additional unfunded beds being opened.
Blacktown Hospital Branch has sought an urgent meeting next week with Western Sydney Local Health District, senior nurse managers and the NSWNMA to discuss their concerns and develop appropriate nurse staffing and workloads solutions.
Download this media release: Concerns for safe patient care at Blacktown Hospital