Critical nurse shortages at Wagga Wagga

IR Commission demands urgent action to address nurse shortages

The NSW Industrial Relations Commission held an urgent conference in Sydney last month to discuss solutions to the nurse shortage at Wagga Wagga Base Hospital (WWBH) after NSWNA members threatened work bans in response to the excessive workloads.

The Commission demanded that the Reasonable Workloads Committee at WWBH meet weekly to monitor and respond to the critical shortage of nurses at the hospital.

The regional hospital has more than 200 beds and 348 full-time equivalent (FTE) nursing positions of which 14% (50FTE) are currently vacant.

There are currently 30 vacancies due to nurses on leave not being replaced, and another 20 FTE permanent vacancies have no nurse employed in the role at all. From late May, the ICU roster alone was 80 shifts short.

NSWNA Assistant General Secretary Judith Kiejda said local branch members and the Area Organiser for Greater Southern Area Health Service (GSAHS) were continuing to work closely with the WWBH executive to develop strategies to deal with the shortage.

‘The hospital has taken on all our suggestions but if the situation gets any worse it will have to make some difficult decisions such as making beds unavailable and reducing elective surgery,’ said Judith.

‘Meanwhile WWBH is advertising in the major newspapers and media outlets to recruit more staff and we’re all looking at options such as transferring patients to the private hospital, recruiting agency staff, redeploying staff from other areas of the hospital and working with the local council to develop some initiatives and incentives to attract nurses to come and work at the hospital.

‘The Federal Budget indicates that further funding has been made available to develop GP Clinics attached to public hospitals, which may go some way toward keeping the pressure off emergency departments – to have such an initiative at Wagga would assist the hospital to manage less acute patients more effectively.

‘These are the things the Federal Government needs to look at. The present waiting-time for a GP in Wagga Wagga is two to three weeks and this is putting enormous pressure on the ED.’