NURSES have threatened to close elective surgery theatres at Wagga Rural Referral Hospital in response to claims of chronic staff shortages.
Local branch members of the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association (NSWNMA) delivered the Murrumbidgee Local Health District (MLHD) a list of demands after a meeting at the new $282 million hospital on Wednesday.
NSWNMA Wagga branch president Jodie Godfrey revealed the hospital, which has been open for less than two months, had been short 40 full-time nurses in one day.
“We’ve got nurses receiving up to eight SMS messages per day asking them to come into work, even while they’re overseas,” she said.
“The health service says there’s no obligation to come into work on our days off, but they still tell us there’s no one to look after the patients.
“We don’t want our community to have their theatres closed but we have no choice because the extreme shortage of staff is wearing us down.”
The vote gave the MLHD one week to hasten the recruitment of new full-time staff, temporarily hire nursing contractors known as agency nurses and reinstate a “nurse bank” of reliable shift workers.
If the MLHD fails to meet the demands, nurses will boycott non-emergency surgeries including hip and knee replacements, hernia repairs and tonsil removals.
Union official Mark Murphy said spare beds which were supposed to lay dormant until staged funding increases kicked in, were already being used.
“The patients in those unfunded beds are predominately being cared for by nurses on overtime, which is not sustainable,” he said.
“There’s extra pressure because there’s been an increased demand on the (emergency department) and in maternity, which is common in new hospitals.
“There’s little point opening such a state-of-the-art, beautiful and clean hospital when there’s not enough nurses to provide the care.”
The hospital’s Director of Nursing & Midwifery, Grant Carey-Ide, said he was listening to the concerns raised by the union.
“We are working in partnership with the Association to provide safe health care for our patients and appropriate conditions for our nurses and midwives,” he said.
“We will consider the issues raised at today’s meeting and continue our discussions with staff and the NSWNMA.”