Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Red News Readers,

Alan Gardo's admission that half the nursing staff in RPAH's Intensive Care are under 2
years experience, is a cry of frustration by a manager struggling with the realities of
the nursing workforce created by the policies and actions of the Howard Government, the
State Government, NSW Health and the human resources policies pursued by the Area
Health Services. In recent years experienced staff left the nursing workforce, not just
because they were nearing retirment age, but also because they were encouraged to
leave, as they were considered too expensive to pay for wages, superannuation and leave

In previous years, NSW Health and the nurses union pursued strategies to recruit and
retain nursing staff which met with some measure of success. Where are those strategies
now? Are they still being pursued? Why are they not as effective as they should be?
What needs to be done to recruit and retain nurses is not rocket science. All of the
work has been done. It just needs to be implemented and resourced, and for that we need
to commitment of the Federal and State Governments, and the efficient performance of
NSW Health and the Area Health Services. At a time when the nurses union is negotiating
the next wage round, efficiency by the employer is a very relevant concept.

Jenny Haines

Junior nurses a 'strain'

Kate Benson Medical ReporterMay 21, 2008

HALF the nurses in the intensive care unit of one of Sydney's busiest hospitals have less than two years' experience, and most spend more time filling in paperwork than caring for patients, an inquiry was told yesterday.

Alan Gardo, a nurse manager at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, told a special commission into acute care services in NSW public hospitals that about 47 per cent of his staff were juniors who had only been nursing for "one to two years", putting a huge strain on the senior staff in the unit.

He said it was "extraordinarily hard" to find new nurses in NSW, and the hospital was forced to employ foreigners on short-term contracts of three to six months, increasing staff turnover and causing permanent staff to feel perpetually anxious.

"We just do not have enough staff, and finding more has become a real problem," Mr Gardo said."Putting people on short contracts may be a Band-Aid solution, but just as they settle in they are gone again."

Mr Gardo said the hospital's intensive care unit, which has the capacity for 54 patients, was too big to manage effectively, and nurses spent too much time on "bureaucracy and documentation" when they should be caring for patients.

"It is extraordinarily difficult for one nursing manager to oversee 130 staff. If we want it to work, the unit needs to be a lot smaller."

In other evidence yesterday, a vascular surgeon told the hearing he was concerned that country patients were being refused beds in tertiary hospitals, even though they desperately needed help.

Associate Professor Geoffrey White, the head of vascular surgery at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, said an Ulladulla patient seeking treatment last week for an aneurysm had been rejected by up to five tertiary, or major, hospitals, all citing a lack of beds.

"We have a situation now where patients are accepted or rejected based on resources, not clinical need. To my mind it verges on being unethical and immoral. We can no longer rely on big hospitals, which have everything required to treat people, to be available to patients in smaller city of regional centres."