Without ratios, rural staffing crisis worsens
Tumbarumba Multi-Purpose Service in the Snowy Mountains district is so short staffed that nurses who leave the ward to cover an emergency have to call kitchen staff to monitor their patients.
The NSWNMA’s Tumbarumba branch president, Kristyn Paton RN, gave evidence at a recent hearing of the NSW Upper House inquiry into rural, regional and remote health services.
She confirmed to the inquiry that asking kitchen staff to cover the ward is common practice.
“It’s not an ideal practice but in an emergency, we have no choice. It reinforces the need for ratios to give us more staff,” she told The Lamp.
Tumbarumba MPS has an emergency department with two beds, an acute medical ward with nine beds and a nursing home with 28 open beds and 40-bed capacity.
Usual staffing is one RN per shift plus a daytime NUM Monday to Friday who doesn’t often work on the floor due to other duties.
Kristyn says it is getting harder to fill rosters because the MPS is losing staff due to heavier workloads and increased responsibilities. “There is often no doctor on call for weeks and months at a time so there is a heavy reliance on the telehealth service and nurses qualified to work in this setting.
“We have nurses living in Tumba who choose to travel 1.5 hours to work at Wagga Wagga Base Hospital or 45 minutes to Tumut hospital, because they get better support there and don’t feel their registration is being put at risk,” she says.
“I sometimes have to call nurses at home to come in on their days off. It’s really hard because a lot of staff live on outlying farms.
“Under the NSWNMA’s award claim, the MPS would have a minimum two RNs and an EN on every shift, to cover the emergency department and the acute ward and ideally another RN in the nursing home.
“Without ratios, the safety of our community and welfare of our staff are being put at risk,” Kristyn says.
“We often have to do 12-hour shifts and double shifts to plug gaps in the roster.”