Northern Beaches Hospital nurses and midwives are united in seeking safer staffing ratios.
“Mandatory ratios would make everyone’s job safer and more manageable,” says Northern Beaches Hospital branch secretary Felicity Melville.
“Public nurses have had minimum staffing levels for years. That’s what all our people want, whether they are classified as migrating staff or work under a Healthscope agreement.
“We all want a safe working environment that allows us to give excellent care to patients.”
Northern Beaches staff include nurses and midwives who transferred from Mona Vale and Manly public hospitals.
Known as “migrating employees”, they are covered by an award copied from the Public Health Award.
This award generally provides better conditions than those applying to other Northern Beaches nurses who work under a Healthscope enterprise agreement.
Copied award conditions include minimum nursing hours per patient day, like-for-like replacement of staff and ACORN standards for operating theatres.
Migrating employees’ conditions under threat
Migrating employees also have 14 weeks parental leave (compared to 10 in the Healthscope agreement), a higher rate of long service leave accrual, and 10-hour breaks between shifts and after overtime.
The copied award applies for five years (from October 2018) unless Healthscope replaces it with another agreement, which it is now seeking to do.
Felicity, who came to Northern Beaches from Manly hospital, says staff in both categories have worked well together for two years and are united in seeking a better deal than Healthscope’s offer.
She points out that some of the migrating staff worked in public hospitals for up to 30 years.
“They committed to come across and build the new privately-operated hospital, which was a difficult process, especially in the first six months.
“We worked really hard to get the new hospital where it is, so we were disappointed to find out that Healthscope undervalued that contribution and wanted to take away conditions the migrating staff had had for a long time.
“The branch believes Healthscope should extend at least some of those conditions to all Northern Beaches nurses, who have worked together to create a fantastic environment to provide excellent patient care.”
Healthscope didn’t listen
In an email to all nurses, Healthscope said it was disappointed that staff rejected its offer.
Felicity says the email suggests Healthscope did not hear nurses’ concerns.
She was not surprised to see the Healthscope offer voted down after the company refused to give any concessions on members’ requests for improvements.
“In the emergency department, where I work, we had almost daily discussions about what we wanted to do about the company’s offer,” she says.
“We came to a consensus that it would be a ‘no’ vote and that position was very well supported throughout the wards.
“Offering only a 1 per cent increase in the Year of the Nurse and the year of COVID-19 was an insult. However, it wasn’t the main focus for either group of employees.
“There was a positive mood in our branch meetings because everyone was on the same page and we were all fighting for the same things, such as better staffing and non-wage entitlements that were either going to be taken away or not put in place.”