Tenterfield Hospital facing dangerously low staffing levels ahead of holiday season

The New South Wales Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) is calling for urgent intervention from NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard to resolve staffing issues at Tenterfield Community Hospital following reports of roster gaps being left unfilled and putting patient safety at risk.

The hospital featured on a recent episode of 60 minutes, highlighting existing issues and the NSWNMA is concerned that these dangerous understaffing levels are still unresolved.

Tenterfield Hospital was facing the prospect of having no doctor rostered over the Christmas/New Year period with management only confirming last week that they were able to fill the vacancy at the eleventh hour.

NSWNMA General Secretary Brett Holmes called on Hunter New England Health and the Health Minister to take immediate action to resolve the crisis.

“The current situation at Tenterfield Hospital is entirely unacceptable and dangerous,” Mr Holmes said. “The nurses there are working tirelessly to provide care to their community, but they urgently need support.”

“The equivalent of approximately 4 full-time nursing positions are vacant at the hospital, with nurses regularly working double shifts to ensure safe patient care is maintained. Management has told us nurses are on the way but won’t start work until February 2021.

“The situation is so dire that it has led to management requesting some staff withdraw their annual leave applications over the holiday period.

“On top of this, nurses are being expected to answer the door to the hospital to ask COVID-19 screening questions, despite being short-staffed and working overtime.

“Even before the opening of the new, bigger Emergency Department in 2019, our members had asked for additional staff. Now that it’s open, they need at least three nurses rostered on each shift.

“Our members at Tenterfield have been raising concerns for over a year, even having a meeting with the NSW Health Minister, yet still they have no resolution.

“The Tenterfield community cannot wait for the results of the NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into the state of rural, regional and remote health care. Hunter New England Health owes a duty of care to provide safe patient care and allowing staffing to get to such dangerous levels puts that at risk.

The Association has evidence that the dire situation is repeated across rural and remote parts of NSW with insufficient staffing at Inverell District Hospital, Gunnedah Hospital, Manilla MPS and Barraba MPS within Hunter New England Local Health District.

In Murrumbidgee Local Health District, pressures are most seriously affecting nurses and midwives at Tumbarumba MPS, Batlow MPS and Tumut Hospital while Bourke MPS is desperately seeking staffing over the Christmas period

“The Health Minister must immediately intervene to prioritise the healthcare in the Tenterfield community by increasing the number of nurses so they can provide safe patient care,” Mr Holmes said.

“This must be the first step to resolve this staffing crisis across all regional and rural NSW. Your postcode should not decide the level of healthcare you receive.”

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