Nurses to strike as at least 500 face the axe
By Kate Sikora, Daily Telegraph
January 15, 2009 12:00am
UP TO 500 nurses could lose their jobs as the State Government desperately tries to claw back $64 million in savings - despite spending almost the same amount on a recruitment drive.
Nurses have begun striking at hospitals around the state over the job cuts which will affect country hospitals such as Dubbo and Orange which are already struggling to provide services.
But health officials deny the cuts will affect bedside nurses.
The Daily Telegraph understands at least seven of the eight area health services plan on cutting nursing positions, but only one will publicly state how many jobs are to go.
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Yesterday cash-strapped Greater Western Area Health Service confirmed 129 nursing positions will be slashed.
North Coast hospitals will also lose about the same number as management looks to shed 460 full-time equivalent positions, including cleaners and wardsmen, across the area.
NSW Nurses Association Judith Kaiedja said other hospitals would also axe nursing positions to rid themselves of debt.
"They claim it is not frontline staff but these positions are causal or agency staff," she said.
"They are nurses who are needed because someone is off sick, annual leave and maternity or we can't fill the positions.
"While I don't want to say it, the number could be 500 or even more. We know seven of the eight area health services have been told to cut their budgets."
The union believes there are about 1100 nursing vacancies, a number which has stayed static for the past two years as the Government desperately attempts to recruit more nurses. It will throw $43.6 million at recruiting and retaining nurses this financial year, a 5.2 per cent increase.
An ageing population also means NSW continues to lose about 10 per cent, or 4200, of its nurses each year. The Federal Government promised $81 million to train and recruit an extra 9250 nurses for Australia's hospital system, but the plan has so far failed.
The scheme included greater funding for nursing places at universities as well as bonuses of $6000 to attract 7750 nurses who had been out of the health workforce for more than a year.
Opposition health spokeswoman Jillian Skinner said the Government needed to come clean on how many nurses would lose their jobs. "The question Health Minister John Della Bosca must answer is how many other area health services across NSW will be sacking frontline nurses