Staff shortages force ED protest

Patients were handed fruit yesterday to highlight waiting times.
Patients were handed fruit yesterday to highlight waiting times.

AS the number of public complaints against the Emergency Department (ED) at Coffs Harbour Base Hospital continues to grow, now even the nurses are fed up.

Desperate and frustrated ED staff staged a formal protest yesterday to highlight the crisis in staff numbers.

Fearful for the quality of patient care and exhausted by long hours, the NSW Nurses Association members handed out pieces of fruit to people presenting at the emergency department because ‘they’ll be waiting for a while’ while other members erected a placard on the Pacific Highway.

Secretary of the Coffs Harbour branch of the association, Amanda Short, said the staff shortage was so severe patient care was suffering.

“There was an eight per cent increase in patients presenting to the ED last year alone but we received no extra staff,” Ms Short said. “The Clinical Initiative Nurse (CIN) who would usually be supervising patients in the waiting room is looking after patients in the ward because there is no one else to do it. The resuscitation beds are full with long-term patients. If we have a road trauma come in, it’s only that the ambulance ring us ahead of time and let us know they’re coming that we have time to clear the beds and make room.”

NSWNA general secretary, Brett Holmes, said the Coffs Harbour ED had 14 general beds, two resuscitation beds and six procedure rooms, which meant it should have at least nine or 10 nurses on duty each shift if it was staffed at the proper level.

Coffs Harbour has eight on day shift and just four on night shift.

“I am told staffing is so short there are 60 unfilled nursing shifts on the next ED roster and the morning and afternoon shifts have been working one nurse down in recent weeks. Acuity levels are often so high in this ED the procedure rooms are used to hold seriously ill patients awaiting admission to a ward. The current length of stay in this ED can be up to 72 hours, yet no staffing allocation is provided for these procedure rooms.”

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