The Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NMA) has taken a swing at Wagga MP Daryl Maguire after he criticised the union on Friday.
Mr Maguire was addressing the media during a tour of Wagga Base Hospital’s redevelopment when questions about nursing shortages were brought up.
“Well look you can’t believe the union as far as you can kick them,” Mr Maguire said. “This is the first we’d heard that there were some issues here at Wagga Base Hospital and quite frankly I think it’s just part of an organised campaign across New South Wales by the unions, instead of focusing on the positives: The biggest and largest redevelopment of any hospital in regional or rural NSW.”
Union secretary Brett Holmes said nurses and midwives had taken offence at Mr Maguire’s comments.
“Wagga nurses and midwives have been calling for improved nurse-to-patient ratios for the past seven years to no avail thanks to the current state government,” Mr Holmes said. “Mr Maguire’s comments last Friday suggest he too has had his head in the sand and is oblivious to the actual staffing issues occurring locally. Hospital management has since conceded there are issues present at the hospital, including the overuse of unfunded surge beds, which has had flow-on implications for nursing staff.”
Last week, members of the Wagga NMA branch staged a protest in front of the hospital, raising concerns about understaffing and workload across multiple wards and units. Branch president Rebecca Deveraux said there were 16 unfunded “surge beds” – used to temporarily expand capacity – that needed to be officially opened so the hospital could hire staff accordingly.
However, Mr Maguire accused the union of pulling off a stunt for the media and said nurse-to-patient ratios were the subject of an agreement between the government and the union.
“The union came to town last week and within 30 minutes there was a protest,” Mr Maguire said. “There’s a process – and they know the process – where if there are issues they sit down with the hospital administrators and address them. The (staffing levels) were signed off by the nurses union and that’s what hospitals across the state follow.”
Wagga union members said they were proud to advocate on behalf of local patients to secure the safest care possible and would continue to campaign for improved nurse-to-patient ratios at the hospital.
“We would suggest Mr Maguire allocates some time to meet with the local nurses and midwives branch to understand the issues comprehensively, rather than shooting off disingenuous comments in the media,” Mr Holmes said.
Mr Maguire said it was the union who should stop running to the media and instead engage in due process.
“They’re the ones who are out of touch,” he said. “They haven’t come to me, or to (Murrumbidgee health boss) Jill Ludford, or (hospital director) Helen Cooper. I very genuinely support the health staff at our hospital to ensure resources are delivered and we do that every day.”