Closures hit drug and alcohol patients at St Vincent’s.
Bed closures at St Vincent’s Hospital have forced nurses to delay treatment of drug and alcohol patients seeking urgent care.
Gorman House, the hospital’s acute drug and alcohol unit, takes emergency department presentations and elective admissions.
Management cut its bed numbers from 20 to 12 in November, with nurses redeployed to other wards.
NSWNMA branch member Leana Payne says the unit operates an intake line for elective admissions.
“People who want to detox can phone and do an intake interview. Since the bed closures we’ve had
to manage numbers by delaying elective admissions,” she says.
“There have been multiple days when we’ve had to call people who are in a really bad way and need to come in to detox, and tell them we have had to post-pone their treatment, even though there are beds sitting there empty.
“It’s really sad, especially when people are begging us to help them.
“We report the situation to management and discuss it at every meeting, with no obvious changes as a result.
“We put in daily ‘riskmans’ to report hazards and risks that could lead to incidents, but management often doesn’t pass on feedback or responses to them.”
Since November bed numbers have fluctuated depending on executive decisions.
“We were told that if numbers were going to be pushed to 13 or more it had to be cleared by the executive. The maximum has been 14 patients but when bed numbers go up staffing levels haven’t been increased.”
Leana and the Gorman House team feel the staff are being used as a casual pool.
“All 20 nurses apart from the CNS2 and NUM have been affected. In the last 24 hours we have had someone redeployed on every shift.
“I’ve worked on three other wards as well as Gorman House in the last two months.
“I have been sent to work on wards that are outside my clinical specialty and where I have limited experience. When I have brought this to the attention of management I am told there is an educator available.
“Sometimes there is an educator available for support during the day shift but we are deployed on afternoon and nights as well.”
“The stress is horrific because you’re worried you are going to miss something or do something wrong that could be life threatening.”
Leana says Gorman House is not being staffed to what nurses consider to be a safe level.
“The mood among staff is awful. On every shift you’re working short, or the acuity is going up and nothing is done about it.
“No matter what we say, someone senior over-rules us.”
Budget woes drive closures
The national body governing St Vincent’s hospital, St Vincent’s Health Australia Group, directed the hospital to find
$18 million in savings to overcome a budget blowout, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.
The Herald said the hospital’s total budget for 2017/2018 was just under $400 million.
The hospital had contracted external consultants to oversee savings measures.
Management blamed the budget blowout on several factors, including “activity-based changes to heart/lung funding arrangements, the rising cost of major goods and services like electricity, and tightening of the revenue from privately insured patients,” the Herald reported.
“One service already affected is the hospital’s H2M service, which provides dedicated psychological and psychiatric care for people with HIV and hepatitis C.
“GPs with patients referred to the service were informed via email that H2M was being ‘wound down and closed because of severe budgetary constraints’ and could not take new referrals effective immediately.
“Current patients will be referred to other mental health services, according to the email.”
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