New South Wales Nurses and Midwives' Association Murwillumbah branch delegate Angela Gittus is speaking out about proposed nurse shift cuts to the Murwillumbah ED department. Photo: Sharon Hickey
New South Wales Nurses and Midwives' Association Murwillumbah branch delegate Angela Gittus is speaking out about proposed nurse shift cuts to the Murwillumbah ED department. Photo: Sharon Hickey

‘Don’t rob Peter to pay Paul’: nurses slam bid to cut shifts

STAFF say proposed slashes to nursing staff rosters in Murwillumbah hospital's emergency department despite a rise in presentations will put patients at risk.

If the Northern NSW Local Health District changes go through, hours for at least three full-time nurses will disappear from Murwillumbah District Hospital's ED to other facilities.

The decision follows a review of Ballina, Byron Central, Maclean and Murwillumbah emergency departments.

It is proposed to redistribute some of the 230 nursing hours a fortnight from Murwillumbah to Byron Central Hospital and Ballina District Hospital.

NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association Murwillumbah branch delegate Angela Gittus said the need to increase staffing at one hospital should never result in cuts to another.

"The proposal represents a 24 per cent cut in total nursing hours and will have a significant impact on the quality and timeliness of care the remaining nurses can provide to patients in the ED," she said.

"Our branch absolutely supports other EDs in the region having safe and appropriate staffing but what we oppose is the Local Health District effectively robbing Peter to pay Paul. It's not acceptable.

"Our community values the care it receives at Murwillumbah hospital and we will fight to ensure we can continue to provide them with the safe patient care they deserve."

A born-and-bred Tweed local, Ms Gittus said staff were worried the nine nurses rostered on over 24 hours to care for up to 11 beds would be reduced to seven.

The nurse of 17 years who works in Murwillumbah ED said this meant instead of three people rostered for a typical morning shift (excluding a triage nurse) there would be two.

"If there was an emergency in a different part of the hospital or a nurse was required to go with a patient transferred to the Tweed Heads hospital with our breathing apparatus, that would mean only one nurse was left in the ED," Ms Gittus said.

 

Member for Lismore Janelle Saffin with nurses outside the Murwillumbah hospital last Saturday collecting signatures for the petition to stop the changes to nursing hours at the ED.
Member for Lismore Janelle Saffin with nurses outside the Murwillumbah hospital last Saturday collecting signatures for the petition to stop the changes to nursing hours at the ED.

 

"It means casual staff wouldn't get hours and permanent part-time staff could not pick up extra shifts.

"The Local Health District claims it's increasing it's workforce but none of those nursing hours have come to Murwillumbah.

"The State Government promised extra nurses at the last election but we still haven't seen any of those.

"What we want is the Local Health District to use those promised nurses to prop up Ballina and Byron Bay's emergency department safely, instead of taking them from an ED which is meeting KPIs, ranked second in the state for patient satisfaction and has happy staff who enjoy their jobs looking after the community. They should be replicating what we are doing well."

NSWNMA general secretary Brett Holmes said ­members were understandably outraged by the decision, which came exactly 12 months after the Berejiklian Government's election commitment of 5000 extra nurses and midwives, 282 of which were earmarked for Northern NSW.

"This decision is nothing short of shameful and flies in the face of the NSW Health Minister's commitment last year to bolster nursing staff numbers across our regional hospitals," Mr Holmes said.

"You cannot safely run an emergency department with less nursing staff, especially if you're constantly relying on on-call doctors for support.

"We've already witnessed the tragic consequences of this at Tenterfield, yet the Local Health District appears resolute to find savings at any cost."

Earlier this week, NNSWLHD chief executive Wayne Jones told the Tweed Daily News there were no plans and had never been plans to close Murwillumbah District Hospital and staffing reviews were standard practise.

"NNSWLHD has reviewed nursing staffing in the EDs of a number of its hospitals to ­ensure we continue to meet patient demand by always placing staff where they are needed most," he said.

"We are enormously proud of the passionate, patient-centred care provided by staff at the hospital."

A staff consultation meeting was held last Thursday and Mr Jones said consultation would continue across coming weeks, taking on "feedback from our staff and working towards a revised allocation that better reflects the activity at the hospital".

The Daily understands another meeting with staff will be held on Monday.

Staffing allocations would be reviewed again as the opening of the new $582 million Tweed Valley Hospital in 2023 loomed, Mr Jones confirmed.

Member for Lismore Janelle Saffin has launched a ­petition aimed at fighting proposed changes.