Management has dropped a plan to cut nursing hours – but the NSWNMA Wyong branch warns the fight is not over.
Nurses at Wyong Hospital have blocked an attempt to cut nursing hours, despite already working excessive hours and carrying dangerous workloads.
Management has dropped the proposal, but given no guarantee they won’t try to cut hours again.
The hospital’s NSWNMA branch warns the fight is not over.
Wyong is a Group B hospital and has been running at 6.0 NHPPD (nursing hours per patient day) since 2016.
To cut costs, management of Central Coast Local Health District said they intended to permanently reduce all Wyong NHPPD wards to 5.5 NHPPD, which is the award minimum.
Affected wards included M1, M3, R1 and GRU.
NSWNMA delegate at Wyong, Kelly Falconer, said cutting half an hour’s nursing per patient could potentially eliminate two nursing shifts per day on a 32-bed ward.
“Staff are already struggling to handle the workload with 6.0 NHPPD,” said Kelly, who is an ED nurse. “To suffer that proposed cut would have been devastating and extremely dangerous to our patients.”
She said the proposed cut would have denied patients the care they need.
“Nurses are already working as hard as they can, often missing meal breaks and having to stay behind after their shifts.
“Patients mostly get great care, but it shouldn’t be at the cost of nurses having to do a 10-hour night shift without getting any breaks.”
To fight the cuts, the branch identified member leaders on each affected ward, started a WhatsApp communication group for members, and met with Wyong MP David Harris, the Labor Party spokesperson for the Central Coast.
NSWNMA General Secretary, Brett Holmes, said cutting nursing hours could lead to a breach of Clause 53 (iii) (f) of the Award, which provides that nurses and midwives “will not be allocated an unreasonable or excessive nursing workload”.
In a letter to the hospital’s Director of Nursing (DON), Nadine Bridgett, Brett said the proposed cuts were at odds with the consensus view of the hospital’s Reasonable Workloads Committee, made up of both NSWNMA members and nursing management.
Branch officials and member representatives from each ward attended a “grievance meeting” with management reps, including hospital General Manager, Chris Bone, and DON, Nadine Bridgett.
Kelly said nurses gave specific examples of the unreasonable workloads, which contributed to nurses being assaulted and missed patient cares.
“We talked from the heart and let it rip,” she said. “We said ‘This is disgusting, you can’t do this’.”
“A couple of nurses told of not having time to take geriatric patients to the toilet because nurses were looking after extremely confused patients who were wandering and at risk of falling.
“They have to tell them to ‘Go into your nappy and we’ll clean you as soon as we can’.”
Following the grievance meeting, management confirmed in writing that the status quo of 6.0 NHPPD would remain, but gave no commitment to NHPPD once the hospital redevelopment is finished.
Nurses are due to move into the redeveloped facility in July.