With grave fears for patient safety, senior nurse managers across several health facilities in Western NSW took the unprecedented step of stop work action for two hours today, sounding an alarm about the dire state of rural and regional health.
Unable to fill rising nurse vacancies and critical gaps in current rosters, members of the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) Nurse Managers branch in Western NSW Local Health District (WNSW LHD) met last Friday and voted to walk out from 9am to 11am on 21 December.
NSWNMA General Secretary, Brett Holmes, said the levels of desperation and despair expressed by the Health Service Managers (HSM) and senior nursing staff was profound, and warranted urgent action by the NSW government.
“We’ve got senior nurse managers in Bourke, Cobar, Lightning Ridge, Nyngan, Warren, Tottenham, Trundle and Tullamore Multi-Purpose Services (MPS) all struggling right now to fill holes in nursing rosters. That’s also being compounded by growing nurse vacancies WNSW LHD hasn’t recruited to,” said Mr Holmes.
“The situation has become so dire, senior nurse managers are resorting to strike for two hours and seek a meeting with the Premier, Deputy Premier and Health Minister to escalate their concerns.
“These HSM and senior nurse managers have very real fears that patients’ lives are at risk and their own professional registrations are being put in jeopardy, given the volume of unfilled shifts.
“We’re aware Lightning Ridge MPS has over 140 vacant nursing shifts over the coming month. Nyngan and Warren MPSs have up to 90 unfilled shifts in their rosters, while Bourke MPS has over 50. Trundle and Tottenham MPSs have 30 or more nursing shifts vacant.
“Acting in the interests of their local communities, the HSMs and senior nurse managers have told us they have no other option than to take the industrial action.
“For too long, this government has chosen to ignore the growing staffing issues in small community hospitals and MPSs, which has led to the significant crisis we’re now facing.
“We wrote to the government last month outlining the dire staffing situation in rural and remote NSW and to date we have not had a response. The circumstances are devastating for the nursing workforce, which is also grappling with pandemic fatigue.”
The NSWNMA reiterated calls for the NSW government to introduce statewide nurse-to-patient ratios on every shift, including a minimum of at least three nurses in every rural and remote facility, two of whom must be registered nurses with first-line emergency care qualifications.
Members from the following facilities participated in industrial action: Blayney MPS, Bourke MPS, Cobar Health Service, Lachlan Health Service (Parkes), Lightning Ridge MPS, Molong MPS, Nyngan Health Service, Peak Hill MPS, Trangie MPS, Tottenham MPS, Trundle MPS, Tullamore MPS and Warren MPS.