Unfunded beds add to staffing woes

Gosford hospital staff say they “have been stretched so thin and for so long” they are at breaking point.

“How many more nurses need to injure themselves, burn out or leave the profession completely before they listen?” asked RN Lauren Kirby when she spoke at a rally outside Gosford Hospital.

About 60 nurses attended the rally organised by the hospital’s NSWNMA branch.

Speakers called for urgent action to end understaffing of wards across the hospital that threatens patient safety.

“It’s becoming normal for the wards to work short,” Lauren said. “We are under so much pressure and it’s exhausting.”

“Unplanned leave is on the rise, we are getting injured more than before and it affects the quality of care that we can give to our patients.

“We have stretched ourselves so thin and for so long that we are at breaking point and we will not stand for it.”

The state MP for Gosford, Leisl Tesch, told the rally the issue of hospital understaffing needed wider publicity that would prompt the NSW government to act.

Federal Labor MP Emma McBride said nurses must be properly supported to be able to do their jobs.

“Your safety should be the government’s number one priority. so that you can provide quality care to the people in our community,” she told the crowd.

No resources to staff beds properly

Branch secretary Kiri Wilton told The Lamp the hospital had a long-standing problem of unfilled vacancies and a low staff retention rate.

On top of this, a severe winter flu season caused the hospital to open “unfunded” beds without additional staffing.

“We did not have the resources to staff wards properly even before they opened unfunded beds,” she said.

“Opening unfunded beds takes nurses away from the casual pool and nursing support roster, which means those nurses are not available to be used where we actually need them.

“When nurses call in sick they are often not replaced and the hospital relies heavily on overtime.

“At a minimum we are always down at least one nurse per shift.

“Severe understaffing makes it very hard for nurses to maintain safe patient care for the community, which includes high proportions of elderly people, mental illness, drug abuse/addiction and domestic violence.”

Kiri said members have repeatedly raised concerns about understaffing with management – with no result.

NSWNMA General Secretary, Brett Holmes, said Gosford nurses and midwives felt let down by the Central Coast Local Health District, which had failed to adequately address their concerns and implement long-term solutions to uphold patient safety.

“Our members have raised these concerns repeatedly yet the widespread issues still remain, including the opening of additional beds without additional staffing, an increased use of part-time and casual staff, as well as vacancies not being recruited,” Brett told local media.

Following the rally, branch members voted to continue their campaign against the short-staffing crisis to raise awareness that the people of the Central Coast deserve better.

The branch said it would continue discussions between the branch/union and LHD management.