By UTE SCHULENBERG
HORNS were tooting and peak hour commuters were waving to the small band of nurses demonstrating on the side of the Pacific Highway opposite the Coffs Harbour Health Campus (CHHC) yesterday morning.
The placards pleaded 'Just one more Nurse' and 'A Safe Level of Care'.
The issues were a rejected request for one more nurse in the Medical Unit of CHHC and how that related to the new 'reasonable workload clause' in the nurses' award.
Branch president of the NSW Nurses Association, Sue White, said the nurses had been in protracted negotiations with management about staffing levels in wards since 1999.
"While we have had some small wins, it has never really been sorted, so we are here as patient advocates to raise community awareness about this issue," Ms White said.
Her colleague, assistant branch secretary, Steve Hayes, said that acuity levels were not taken into account when staffing numbers were allocated.
"The sicker people are, the more time they need," Mr Hayes said.
"Patients and their families are aware of the problem, but the wider community is not."
In a brief statement of reply to the nurses' concerns, administrator of the Mid North Coast Area Helath Service, Chris Crawford, said 'the Health Service will continue co-operating with the department and the Nurses Association regarding the timetable for the implementation of the Reasonable Workloads Clause and has requested Coffs Harbour be included in the first phase of the rollout (of the clause)'.
The general manager of the CHHC, Margaret Bennett, contacted the Coffs Coast Advocate later to say she was delighted to be able to confirm that Coffs Harbour was indeed part of the first roll-out scheduled for the end of January or early February.
"We can't pre-empt the roll-out of this statewide tool," Ms Bennett said. "In the meantime day-to-day issues regarding workloads are referred to the workloads committee.
"The nurses committment to patient care is very much recognised and we are focusing on what can be done collaboratively locally."