Local nurses and midwives rallied outside Port Macquarie Base Hospital to highlight staffing and workload issues, as well as concerns over the recent public sector wage freeze and future cap on wages.
The NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) Port Macquarie Base Hospital Branch is concerned patient safety will be compromised if Mid North Coast Local Health District continues to open additional beds without adequate permanent staff recruited.
A new 12-bed ward opened inside the hospital on Monday, 9 November, to accommodate the increased activity, including more elective surgery since COVID-19 restrictions were eased.
NSWNMA members fear workloads have become excessive across multiple wards and theatres, which is being compounded by widespread understaffing.
NSWNMA General Secretary, Brett Holmes, said serious staffing concerns were already raised with management, after data collected by the union showed less full-time equivalent (FTE) nurses rostered on the hospital’s four medical and surgical wards compared to nine years ago.
“Despite patient activity and acuity continuing to rise, the hospital’s own data shows nurse staffing levels have gone backwards, prompting widespread concerns over safe patient care,” said Mr Holmes.
“For example, more than 40 shifts on a single ward were still to be filled this month. That is the equivalent of 328 nursing hours, which will have to be covered by casuals or overtime. Meanwhile, the hospital continues to open further beds without adequate permanent staff recruited.
“We’re calling on management to urgently fill the current nurse vacancies across multiple wards, including operating theatres, and we’re seeking additional nursing staff to be recruited to meet demand.
“Our members are constantly receiving text messages asking if they can pick up extra shifts. This heavy reliance on nurses working overtime cannot continue.
“The Port Macquarie community has suffered through elective surgery delays thanks to COVID-19. Now the Local Health District wants to power through the backlog and open up more beds with less staff across its medical and surgical wards.
“It’s not safe for patients and it’s unsafe to continue relying on the goodwill of nurses to battle through excessive amounts of overtime.
“Port Macquarie residents deserve an adequately resourced public hospital. Management must recruit more nursing staff immediately.
Off the back of a 0.3% public sector wage freeze last month, NSWNMA members are also devastated the Berejiklian Government plans to introduce a 1.5% cap on public sector wages in next week’s NSW Budget.