Wagga Base Hospital nurses are “fatigued” by the amount of overtime they are doing to keep wards staffed, according to their union.
The Wagga Base branch of the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association is calling for “unfunded beds” to be closed or for agency staff to be used until these beds are funded and staff recruited.
They say current staffing levels are putting patient safety at risk and believe a more reliable staffing system is needed to keep up with growing demand.
Sylvia Moon, secretary of the Wagga Base branch, said the extra beds had been opened at the hospital, without the nurses to staff them.
“When the new building was finished, there was 24 extra beds, but they’re not fully funded until 2020,” Ms Moon said.
“We have been in meetings, trying to nut out these beds, so that we get safe patient care and we get the staff that we need,” Ms Moon said.
“They have been very positive. The problem is that recruitment of staff for those beds is going to take a while.
“They have been staffing it with a lot of staff overtime. Staff are getting further fatigued and we want to get that addressed.”
Ms Moon said it is a long-standing issue, so the union was calling for the government to fully fund the beds.
“This would go a long way in addressing staff fatigue while also ensuring safe patient care,” she said.
The branch wants to see ratios of one nurse to four patients on wards and one to three in the emergency department and paediatrics and is pushing for a system that provides guaranteed minimum ratios in every ward, on every shift.
A spokesperson for Murrumbidgee Local Health District said Wagga Base was fast-tracking recruitment to a pool of nurses who are allocated across the hospital to manage emergency admissions and trauma, and cover for leave.
“The hospital and nurses agreed that reducing overtime is a priority. Any overtime worked is always closely monitored,” the spokesperson said.
“Within the nursing staff, casual staff levels are maintained so that a casual staff member can take up temporary contracts while recruitment occurs or to cover short-term vacancies, such as illness.
“Between mid-2012 and mid-2018 MLHD has increased its workforce by an additional 374 full-time equivalent staff – including more than 220 nurses.”