Bed closures may be the next step

NURSES’ next plan of action in their campaign for a minimum of four patients to each nurse will see one in four beds closed in metropolitan hospitals and the same could happen here.

Coffs Coast nurses will vote next week on whether to follow the lead of their city colleagues, NSW Nurses Association Coffs Harbour health campus branch secretary Amanda Short said.

Ms Short was a member of the local delegation which flew to Sydney yesterday to attend a mass rally of about 4000 nurses.

She said the proposed bed closures would affect general surgical and medical wards, outpatients and community health, but would not affect the Emergency Department, oncology, maternity paediatrics or intensive care units.

Ms Short said the vote for the bed closure was also endorsed by the Australian Medical Association and the parents of a teenager who died at Royal North Shore Hospital after she was struck by a golf ball.

The girl’s subsequent care was compromised by inadequate staffing and her case precipitated the Garling Inquiry into hospital care.

Another speaker yesterday was a new graduate who found herself caring for 10 patients with only the help of an assistant in nursing. The situation was described by other nurses as ‘absolutely unsafe’.

Ms Short said 1000 new nursing graduates would not gain places in NSW hospitals this year but up to 21 nurses per shift at Coffs Harbour Health Campus were doing overtime at a cost of $75-76 an hour for a registered nurse with eight years experience. She said the health service kept saying it was a cost-cutting measure but this expenditure would almost cover the hourly cost of three new graduate registered nurses.

Bellingen Hospital nurses joined their colleagues state-wide yesterday, taking their fight for safe patient numbers to the streets.

NSW Nurses Association Bellingen branch president Annie Schmidt said NSW nurses want a patient/ nurse ratio of four to one, as in Victoria.

“This has nothing to do with money – it is about patient safety,” she said.

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