Red News Readers,
As I understand it this area health service is almost broke!! Its good that the Nurses Association had this Rally although the numbers supporting it were disappointing, but that may reflect a number of factors – as the wards are short it is hard for nurses to get away, they may have faced intimidation from management (usual when these rallies are held), the largely overseas born staff are not used to participating in union rallies and tend to shy away from them. But what now? If the Area HealthService is broke and needs money from the State and Federal Government, it is going to take a lot more than one Rally to get that happening.
Staff shortages compromise care: nurses
LISA MARTIN, SMH
March 18, 2010
Nurses at six western Sydney hospitals claim patient care is being compromised because a lack of state funding has forced the area health service to freeze hiring.
About 700 Sydney West Area Health Service (SWAHS) nurses protested about staff shortages at Westmead, Auburn, Blacktown, Mt Druitt, Nepean, Katoomba and Lithgow hospitals during their lunch breaks on Thursday.
NSW Nurses Association general secretary Brett Holmes addressed a protest rally at Nepean Hospital in Penrith.
The health service had not advertised positions externally since February 2009 as it struggled to cut expenditure, he told AAP.
"We have got lots of vacancies in positions that aren't being filled on a permanent basis," he said.
He said at Nepean Hospital there were 20 full-time positions unfilled in the maternity section and 14.5 vacancies in the emergency department.
At Mount Druitt and Blacktown the emergency departments were short 13 nurses, and 10 mental health beds had been closed across the health service.
There was also a shortage of cleaners.
Mr Holmes said staff were worried patient care was suffering and called for a cash injection to fill the vacancies.
"The staff are feeling they're not really in a position to be providing the level of care that is required," he said.
"People get moved out of the emergency department at the start of the shift to fill vacancies in wards.
"Then when the emergency departments get busy ... it's very hard to shift them back."
Opposition health spokeswoman Jillian Skinner said the situation was unacceptable, and the nurse shortage was increasing waiting times in emergency departments and elective surgery waiting lists.
"Nurses are fed up to the back teeth," she said.
"The rally at Nepean Hospital was told there was something like 30 vacancies. It's interesting that when you go to the government's website ... they admit to only three."
"They're freezing vacancies ... so when nurses either resign, go on maternity leave ... those who remain are working even harder, and they are becoming disillusioned and they leave."
But SWAHS denied the hiring freeze.
"There is no staff freeze in Sydney West Area Health Service," it said in a statement said.
"SWAHS continues to recruit to frontline positions.
"All SWAHS hospitals have strategies in place to ensure that wards and services are appropriately staffed to maintain safety for patients and staff.
"Casual and agency staff are used as required."
The health service said its chief executive is willing to meet with the NSW Nurses Association to discuss staffing concerns.
© 2010 AAP