Cooma wins extra staff

Sustained pressure leads to more staff and more consultation.

After campaigning for almost a year, nurses and midwives at Cooma Hospital have won a battle with hospital management over workloads, with nurses, midwives, clerks and health and security assistants (HASAs) now rostered for additional shifts throughout the hospital.

“We fought hard for an extra health and security assistant on the night shift in the emergency department, when just one nurse is rostered,” said Eileen Pevere, Cooma Hospital branch president and delegate.

“We now also have a second RN or midwife rostered in the maternity ward on afternoon and evening shifts, when previously there was one midwife working alone. In the general wards, management has agreed to increase nursing hours per patient day from five hours to six hours from 27 October, bringing us up to city hospital standards.”

The branch won these changes after many months of campaigning, after first raising their concerns with the reasonable workload committee and passing branch resolutions.

 “The Local Health District didn’t listen to our concerns, so we created a community campaign around safe patient care,” Eileen says. “We held three rallies, we letterboxed, and we took our message to the local show and markets that we were concerned that without adequate staffing levels, safe patient care was at risk.”

The campaign ramped up during the state election, when the branch held stalls to send a clear message to both parties, particularly the local member and the Deputy Premier John Barilaro.

Winter roster extended

The accumulated pressure of the branch’s community campaign has now paid off.

“Management has also agreed to extend the winter roster of three nurses in the emergency department on the afternoon shift to the entire year. Previously just two nurses were rostered in the afternoon in the non-winter months,” said Eileen.   

“We are seeing an increase in patient acuity; people attending the hospital are getting older and have more complex issues. We were getting to the point where if staffing levels didn’t improve at all, we would almost no longer be able to function.”

On top of the increase in nursing and midwifery hours, Cooma management has also agreed to roster a ward clerk to the emergency department for four hours each Saturday and Sunday (previously there was no clerical assistance in the ED on weekends).

Management has also agreed that the hospital’s staffing escalation plan will be updated to assist with more appropriate admissions to the ward.

The branch has welcomed the turnaround in the hospital’s approach to the union. “We are pleased that management is now keen to have regular monthly catch-ups with the branch,” Eileen said.