Protest signs on the Pacific Highway spread the nurses’ angry message on Monday.
Protest signs on the Pacific Highway spread the nurses’ angry message on Monday.

Nurses slam Crawford's comments

NURSES have slammed North Coast Area Health Service chief executive Chris Crawford over claims this week’s protests – with more to come – were in “bad faith”, claiming ‘ridiculous’ bureaucratic process left them with little choice.

NCAHS organiser for the NSW Nurses Association, Joanne McKeough, said Mr Crawford’s comments about the Association’s tactics in launching industrial action inside and outside the hospital precinct to campaign for extra staff at the Coffs Harbour emergency department (ED) were “plain wrong”.

“Mr Crawford is very quick to wheel out process but he’s wrong all day long – it’s nothing more than smoke and mirrors,” Ms McKeough said.

“Yes, there is an agreed industrial agreement called the Reasonable Workload Clause. Yes, the department and the association have agreed to reasonable workload committees in response to the clause.

“But nowhere in the agreed industrial clause does it state a submission is required for action to be taken, we only need to supply evidence of reasonable workload issues, which is evident within their own systems and data.”

She said the complicated processes and bureaucratic red tape had left the Coffs Harbour ED nurses with no other choice.

“We try and resolve things at a local level but our policy is that no workload issue should stay on the committee agenda for more than six weeks, and then we go to the area. The problem is the NCAHS uses the process to frustrate and to stop the pursuing action. They bastardise the process by asking for an extraordinary amount of data and then take so long to look at it by the time they get around to it it’s out of date and they ask for it again.

“We are yet to have one reasonable workloads submission come to the table and dealt with and acknowledged in anything that would be considered even remotely and acceptable timeframe.”

She said on top of that, the NCAHS gave local management no delegation or authority to deal with staffing issues or instate more staff.

NSW Premier Kristina Keneally remained hopeful an agreement could be reached over the Federal Government’s health reforms ahead of more one-on-one talks with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

Ms Keneally intends to press Mr Rudd over his plans for mental health, e-health and dental care during a meeting on Tuesday night, a day after the Federal Government released a 95-page document of its proposed overhaul.

“They are areas that do need to be progressed as part of the reform,” she told reporters at Liverpool Hospital in western Sydney.

“Tonight I have the opportunity to sit down face-to-face with the prime minister and I will be raising that with a number of other issues that NSW is putting on the agenda.”

Ms Keneally chaired a teleconference with her State and Territory counterparts on Monday to assess the final offer, which includes changes to funding and the setting up of local hospital networks across the country.

While she welcomed the extra detail, the leaders were still concerned about the governance and operation of the proposed hospital networks, the issue of efficiency pricing and how the changes will impact on their budgets.

A further teleconference of State and Territory leaders has been slated for Friday after officials have time to run the ruler over the numbers in the plan.

Mr Rudd wants to divert a third of the State’s GST revenues to the hospital networks, in return for the Federal Government covering 60 per cent of the cost of hospital treatment.

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