Nurses driven out of disability care 

Privatisation of NSW disability services is eroding nursing models of care and pushing experienced disability nurses to quit the sector.

In evidence to the parliamentary inquiry, NSWNMA officer Dennis Ravlich said the private sector had always played a role in disability services but rarely had to care for profoundly disabled people with multiple clinical conditions requiring qualified nursing care.

He said nursing models of care transferred from Family and Community Services (FACS) to non-government providers relied mainly or entirely on nursing classifications to staff certain group homes.

However, these models were already being eroded through use of non-nursing staff – “partly because (providers) say they cannot attract nurses, partly (due to) an economic decision to try to manage their costs”.

Dennis said former FACS nurses were supposed to keep their rates of pay and conditions for two years following their forced transfer to the private sector.

FACS had sought to reassure staff they would be in a “powerful negotiating or bargaining position” following their transfer because of high demand for nursing positions among private providers.

However, some providers were already trying to shift nurses – particularly casual employees – to the inferior federal nurses’ award, which is regarded as a minimum “safety net”.

The pay gap between the FACS award and federal nurses award is as much as $27,500 for a registered nurse at the top grade.

Some employers were also backfilling nursing positions with unlicensed workers and any new nurses employed were only taken on as casuals or permanent part-time workers.

“It is little wonder that these providers are having difficulty in a very competitive marketplace to attract and retain registered nurses,” Dennis said.