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Issue #1742      August 3, 2016

Beds at Wagga Hospital close

Over 70 members from the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association’s (NSWNMA) Wagga Wagga Rural Referral Hospital branch met last week and resolved to close surge beds in an attempt to reduce ongoing staffing issues at the new hospital.

Inadequate staffing has resulted in nurses working up to 70 hours of overtime in a week, leading to exhaustion and threatening the level of care they can provide patients.

Full time equivalent (FTE) vacant nursing and midwifery positions are still too high despite the Murrumbidgee Local Health District’s (MLHD) ongoing recruitment drive.

Judith Kiejda, assistant general secretary of the NSWNMA said nurses and midwives had finally had enough of the unsafe staffing from excessive overtime and were taking matters into their own hands to maintain safe standards of care.

“Our members have tried to resolve the issues with management on several occasions but it’s just not working. There’s still unreasonable overtime being worked, which leads to fatigue, stress and increased sick leave. Opening more beds than staff can manage leads to a reduction in safe patient care, which is unfair on the staff and patients,” Kiejda said.

Last month branch members came to an agreement with management to implement a trial usage of the surge beds, rather than shutting them down completely, with the view to review its effectiveness in two weeks. The trial relied on a daily “huddle” meeting with the designated management team to discuss the projected use of surge beds for that day with the plan to only open beds when there was safe staffing rostered for the following 48 hours. Unfortunately management did not follow through on its promise to implement these meetings.

“NSWNMA staff met with members to review the situation at the hospital and concluded there had been no improvement. The option to close the 16 surge beds was put to members, who voted unanimously to shut them down until the bed-block problem at the hospital improves,” Kiejda said.

The NSWNMA will continue to work closely with the Wagga Wagga Rural Referral Hospital branch and local management until the staffing issues are resolved.

Next article – Distribution workers take action

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