Sacrifice and betrayal
The NSW Industrial Relations Commission is hearing a case against the wage freeze brought by Unions NSW and public sector unions, including the NSWNMA.
The coronavirus has seen nurses increase their skills, broaden their responsibilities and improve their productivity, Angela Gittus told the IRC.
Angela, who is a CNS in emergency at a regional hospital, said “since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic our ED has been very busy preparing for all the potential issues that we might have to deal with, being the front door to healthcare in uncertain times”.
She said nurses have had “to learn completely new ways of doing things, and practice these new skills frequently to ensure we get it right when it matters”.
“We have worked together as a team to train in new ways of doing procedures such as intubation or management of severe shortness of breath.”
She says nurses have “waded through mountains of new information, policy and procedures, sometimes changing daily how we conduct our core business”.
“Infection control procedures for anyone with fever, cough or shortness of breath plus the donning and doffing of PPE with a buddy required to observe has put a strain on resources within the ED.”
Angela says ED nurses have also helped nursing staff from the operating theatre to orientate and learn how to be emergency nurses.
“The mentoring and education has grown a much more flexible and mobile workforce, while providing meaningful work for nurses whose regular work was abruptly stopped due to COVID-19.”
Angela told the Commission that the pay freeze was “bad for nurses, bad for communities but also bad economics”.
Losing the 2.5 per cent pay rise would be devastating for rural communities, she says.
“My money is spent locally and on supporting my family. It stays in my community and supports local businesses.
“In many of the small towns, around the state, it’s the wages of nurses and midwives and other public service workers that keep the town afloat.
“In many of these towns nurses and midwives now find themselves the sole breadwinner. Drought and fire and high unemployment in the bush have meant job losses for many. Those nurses and midwives struggling to keep a family going, are also being counted on to keep their town going.”