Community nurses holding a protest alongside the Pacific Highway.
Community nurses holding a protest alongside the Pacific Highway. Bruce Thomas

Community nurses miss out on offer

NURSES working in the community showed yesterday their frustration at not having their increasing workloads recognised.

About 50 nurses working in community health and community mental health attended a lunchtime rally at Coffs Harbour to protest their exclusion from a workload offer made to nurses working within the hospital.

Drivers in cars, trucks and buses honked their horns in support as they drove past the nurses and their banners.

NSWNA North Coast organiser Jo-Anne McKeough said the community nurses worked with the frail; elderly; disadvantaged; mentally unwell, and; dying, and the decision not to include their work in the workload offer sent the message that these patients did not count.

The community nurses have been part of the NSW Nurses Association campaign for a mandatory nurse-to-patient ratio and Ms McKeough said she was surprised they had been excluded.

“They are one of the most understaffed groups in the health system,” Ms McKeough said.

“You can’t have safe patient care for one group and not for another. Their staffing is slightly different because of the work they do, but there is a lot of information available to measure nursing needs and they do it in other states.”

One nurse said he could visit anywhere from eight to 14 patients in a single day “which equals breaking the speed limit to get to see everyone” and these patient numbers did not allow him to spend an hour with each patient.

“The situation is worse for community nurses in regional areas, because of the travelling distances,” he said.

One nurse said her area extended from Red Rock to Macksville and included Bowraville and Dorrigo and she had 15 patients to treat within this area.

The president of the Coffs Harbour Community Nursing branch of the NSWNA, Carolyn Guichard, said community nurses were asking for a workload formula which gave them four hours in each working day for face-to-face patient care and four hours for travelling and administrative tasks.

Travel is an integral part of the community nursing job, but the secretary of the Community Nursing branch of the NSWNA, Tracy Hill, said she was “terrified” of the trucks on the Pacific Highway and had been held up for up to an hour by an accident on the highway while she was trying to reach and treat a patient.



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