‘Under-resourced, shambolic and at times, dangerous.’
Blacktown Hospital ED staff tell minister the human cost of understaffing.
“Mr Hazzard, our department is in crisis and can only be described as under-resourced, shambolic and at times, dangerous.”
That’s how nurses and other health workers at Blacktown Hospital’s emergency department described their new facilities in an open letter to NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard.
The letter was signed by more than 100 employees and sent by NSWNMA General Secretary Brett Holmes.
The letter said Western Sydney Local Health District had promised a staffing review, but failed to make any progress.
It called on Mr Hazzard to urgently intervene.
It said: “While the new facilities are undoubtedly attractive and contain state-of-the-art equipment, our department is dangerously understaffed, which puts members of our community at risk.
“With increased patient presentations and acuity, inadequate staffing and inappropriately skilled replacement staff, we have been stretched beyond breaking point…it beggars belief that more thought was not given to the department’s staffing requirements.”
The letter said understaffing had, “on occasion, led to catastrophic outcomes for patients under our care.”
It said insufficient staffing had caused scheduled mental health patients to abscond from care and “there is concern that some of these patients may have self-harmed or harmed others.”
Patients in the resuscitation bay “are sometimes not receiving adequate care because of staffing and design issues”, the letter warned.
“These are our sickest patients and at times we cannot care for them.
“This has contributed to a number of serious patient incidents and must be addressed.”
Patients waited 24 hours for a bed
The letter said staff had been directed to offload patients from ambulances into beds that have no staff allocated to them.
“Patients are not assessed in a timely manner, which may be a matter of life and death in some circumstances.”
Patients already admitted to hospital were having to wait for a bed for more than 24 hours, Mr Hazzard was told.
They included paediatric patients, psychiatric patients, cardiac patients waiting without monitoring and patients awaiting surgical admission.
“While in our waiting room, they do not have adequate care and support, are uncomfortable and under a great deal of strain,” the letter added.
“This has led to a number of violent outbursts, which have required the intervention of hospital security and the police.
“This is an impossible situation…If you cannot assist us, we will be forced to act to ensure our patients receive appropriate care.”
In reply to Brett Holmes, Mr Hazzard said he appreciated the NSWNMA’s advocacy on behalf of hospital staff.
He said the LHD had agreed to give the department three additional nurses per shift for six months while a staffing review took place.
He acknowledged that patients had absconded from the ED and added: “There is no evidence that scheduled mental health patients who have absconded, have self-harmed or harmed others.”